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How Math Must Assess: A Review

I’m implementing Dan’s grading program, with some minor variations. I’m finding it to be almost all positive:

  • Even after 5 years, I’d still have grading guilt. That has gone away, because I know that my kids are going to have a chance to prove themselves again.
  • Stretching the assessment out over weeks, rather than on one day, allows me to be more responsive with my teaching.
  • I’m not stressed about makeup tests.
  • The kids aren’t seeing the grading as punitive. They also don’t give up hope (for the most part) after a bad grade.
  • My grading is now focused on perfection: no more 90% scores for someone who got the right idea, but had a minor math mistake. I want you to know it, and know it reliably. I think this, as much as anything, will pay off come the state tests.

I have a couple of modifications:

  • I keep the two highest test scores. A B becomes the average of 4 & 3. A D is the average of 3 & 2.
  • I miss the authentic assessment, so in my version the tests are a qualifying event for a “What I Learned About …” assignment (e.g. What I Learned About Integer Operations). This is worth an additional 2 points, for a total of 10 for each concept. Failing to do the assignment, or blowing it completely, will drop one of the test scores by one point.
  • I’m not counting class/homework as part of the letter grade. I still collect it all in a separate portfolio, and it becomes part of their work habits grade. This may have to change.
  • I have no final.

I think it keeps the major features, though: it makes students responsible for their own learning, it differentiates, it focuses on understanding the concepts, rather than just doing the work.

There are also some minor drawbacks:

  • It’s good for individual concepts – it doesn’t do as well for combining them. Our books certainly seem to think that’s not an issue, but in my experience you can take a kid who’s shown proficiency in two different areas, and have them be completely befuddled when they get a problem that involves those two areas together. I’m addressing this by rolling in old concepts into the newer ones for the advanced version of the questions.
  • Kids catching up don’t get a fair shot at the easier question. I suppose I could have two levels of questions, but that’s way more work for me. If they come in for tutoring, of course, I can tailor the question.
  • The percent scale comes out just a bit weird.
  • I’m still not entirely comfortable assessing with effectively two questions. The WILA should address some of that, but it still feels akward.

{ 3 } Comments

  1. Jake | September 29, 2008 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    I’d be curious to hear more about your “habits of work” grade. Is this your own thing, or a school-wide policy? How does it work? Are you pleased with it?

    I too am trying Dan’s method this year and am troubled by HW/CW muddying the waters. I’d still like CW/HW to count, but I don’t know how to do it without skewing the “do you KNOW it?” part of this system.

  2. Mr. K | September 29, 2008 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

    Our district provides 3 grades – the letter grade is an academic one, the other two comprise what used to be citizenship: work habits and cooperation.

    I have a bit of extra leverage, because in 8th grade the latter two become important for culmination.

    Today I added another component to the grade: test corrections. Every time I correct a quiz, I’m having them correct all of the missed questions, along with an explanation of how they made the mistake. It’ll probably be between 5-15% of the grade – i haven’t decided yet. I want a little bit of incentive for them to look over their own work, and review it with the help of their classmates and the textbook.

    If you look his original plan, the “do you know it part” makes up a large percentage, but not the entirety. I don’t (usually) assign homework, and I can get kids to do the work in class, so that’s not the issue. I do need to provide some structure for them to independently pursue their needs.

  3. Fluxion Fred | January 3, 2011 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

    Not sure if you’ll notice this after all these months, but how is it going? Is your SBG system working? I’m preparing to do inaugurate in a couple weeks, for second semester. Some of the tiny details are still unclear, and I feel like I’ve read and re-read all the pertinent web documents.

    Thanks for any help.