End of the Year

As I’m getting ready for next year, I realized that I need to have closure on this past year.

Last summer (2016) my family moved back to Maryland from New Mexico and because of that, I needed to find a math teaching job. I was hoping for a high school position, but according to the county math specialist, it was a strange year because no HS math positions were opening up. They asked, and I said that I was willing to teach middle school, and before I knew it, I was teaching 8th grade math and Accelerated Algebra 1!

It was a big transition for me for several reasons: private to public, Christian to secular, high school to middle school; Precalculus, Physics, Chemistry to 8th grade math. In both schools I was fortunate to teach a very diverse group of students, though the makeup of the diversity changed[1].

One of the biggest changes was having an new boss/principal (who ended up being really awesome!) I didn’t know whether I would be allowed to continue my bizarre Standards Based Grading gradebook.

How I Graded This Year

Because of this, I graded differently in Algebra (where I was the only Algebra teacher in the school) than in 8th Grade Math (where I taught alongside an experienced teacher).

In both classes, we had quizzes/tests every Friday, for consistency, and the content of the assessment depended on where the students were in their understanding.

In 8th grade math, students could do quiz/test corrections, like I’ve done in the past, but there were not really standards in the gradebook and each quiz/test was one grade[2]. Classwork was a big chunk of the grade (~25%?) and by the end it was really just me grading their warm-up sheets weekly on effort.

In Algebra, I graded them out of 100, but they really could only usually earn multiples of 10 (50, 60, 70, 80, 90, or 100). Quizzes had fewer than 10 questions and I just took 10 points off for each one they got right (so getting 4 out of 6 right would be an 80). That was 95% of their grade and the other 5%, just like in the other class, was HW.

Where I’m Going

Next year, I’m going up to High School, and I’m moving to the local High School where my children will eventually attend one day!

I’ll be teaching two sections of year-long Algebra 1 and one section of Precalculus each semester.

Once again, I’m moving into unknown territory: I don’t know what the principal will allow. At least I’m a little more familiar with the gradebook, though I know it can’t do SBG the way I want it to (like ActiveGrade!).

One added challenge is that my “year-long” Algebra kids will really only have me for a semester because they switch all their classes around. So they’ll likely have two different Algebra 1 teachers. Also Precalculus is a semester course, so I’ll have a new batch in the Spring there too.

That means the weirder my grading policy, the more time I’ll have to spend explaining and the longer students will take to adjust to the new setup.

How I Want to Grade Next Year

I know I want to go back to more SBG than I did this past year. I need to have students see that grades are communication, not rewards/punishment. I need to give students second chances. And I need my classroom instruction to be driven by the focus that SBG brings. I need to work on what this looks like, so first up, I need to find well organized standards that are “just the right size”.

I also intend to flip the classroom. So much of my Algebra class left positive on that aspect of the class, more than I was expecting!

I also want to create a class website again. I used Google Classroom this past year and it was very effective for the middle school students, but it’s too difficult to find previous posts (even with the tagging system)[3] and the organization that a website brings is so helpful.

 

[1] In NM, 70% of my students were Native American, compared to in MD, roughly 1/3 of my students were African American and 1/3 of my students were Hispanic.

[2] Except for one time near the end of the year where I gave them a large quiz and wanted them to see that they were two different topics. I also wanted to reward them because I thought it was going to be a quiz that they’d do really well on. They didn’t. Oops.

[3] I still can’t believe that you can’t easily search within a Google Classroom yet. Makes no sense.

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