A Unit Review Day Activity that Works!

One feature of my Standards Based Grading model is that at the end of each unit of study is a summative (yet formative) “End-of-the-Unit Assessment.”  This comes after several formative quizzes given during the unit of study.  For years (really since I began teaching) I’ve always struggled with the dreaded “Review Day” before an test/exam/assessment/whatever  you call it.  Yesterday I had one of those AH-HA moments and think I might be on to something!

Two days before the scheduled Unit Assessment I gave my students a self-assessment sheet for the  unit that looks like this:
Self Assessment

Link to the pdf here: Self Assessment

As you can see the format of the Self Assessment is that the specific Learning Goal is listed along with a sample question that relates to that goal.  Students were then to score their own confidence and explain why they scored themselves the way they did for each goal.  I collected these sheets  from the students and used them to setup review groups for the next day’s class.

Based on the students confidence level for each goal I split the class into groups.  I essentially placed the student in the group that would focus on the goal they were least confident with.  It worked out that we had pretty even groups of 3-5 in each, which was nice.  In class the day before the assessment I had two review questions printed for each goal.  I placed each group of students on a whiteboard with a large sheet printed with the two questions on.  They spent 10-15 minutes discussing and answering the questions in front of them.  I told the groups I would not come to help them until they had something relevant written on their board.  After about 10 minutes I walked around group to group and guided them if they needed it, but most were good.  I found that most groups had a nice mix of students that knew at least something about the problem, and others that needed more guidance.  This got them talking with each other.

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After each group completed their board we did a Whiteboard Gallery walk where the groups rotated from board to board to see what questions were asked and what answers were given.  If there were questions I made myself available to discuss things with small groups.  With the time we had left in class I gave out a traditional practice “review” sheet for students to do on their own if they chose to.

I liked the way the activity gave structure to the review day that wasn’t just me talking and going over stuff.  It was also individualized for each student based on their own confidence levels, not just random grouping where they might be working on problems they already know.  It also is so much better than giving them a “free day” to be productive and review on their own, because we all know how that turns out.

Broom Ball as an Intro to Physics

Thanks to Matt Greenwolfe from North Carolina for having me think about using the bowling ball/broom lab in this way.

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Traditionally modelers have used the bowling ball lab as a introduction to the Balanced Force Model, however in reality this lab has so much more to offer than just balanced forces.  In reality it has EVERYTHING an intro mechanics physics course needs.  Granted we won’t be able to dive into and develop all of the models of physics at play here, but the students will have a sense of them anyways.

I gave my students the following set of “Official Broom Ball Rules” as published by the United States Broom Ball Association (USBBA).  Broom Ball.  Before we started any competition I gave all the students about 20 minutes to practice their techniques.  Once I felt they knew what they were doing we divided into teams of two.  Each team took a timed run through the course.  I found a student to be the official timer, and I was the keeper of any penalty time that needed to be assessed.  I felt the students had a great time playing the game and competing for the pride of being the fastest broom ball team.  Here are the final results:

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After the competition each team discussed questions about the motion of the ball, how to produce that motion, challenges and recommended strategies to succeed.  As a large group these same questions were discussed.  During the course of the discussion I served as recorder of ideas.  I tried to write down as much as possible and attempted to organize all the ideas into 7 big physical models.  Constant Velocity, Acceleration, Balanced Forces, Unbalanced Forces, Circular Motion, Energy, Momentum.

At this point it’s unnecessary that the student understand any of these models fully, but I can see the benefit from having the words at least “out there.”  Sometimes I feel modeling tries to “hide” the terms from students like it’s a big secret, when in reality they already know these terms and its now our job to break them from what they think they know about each one and model the correct way to apply the models in different physical situations.  I was excited to start the year this way, and hopefully it sets the tone for a great year.

Electronic Portfolio “Final”

In the spirit of the Standards Based Grading (SBG) I’m using this year I didn’t give my chemistry or physics classes a written final exam this week.  Instead I stole a Frank Noschase idea and offered an optional “Reassessment Buffet” featuring paper and pencil quiz problems for all of the goals we had covered this semester.  This obviously allowed students an opportunity to master goals they had not yet mastered.  It worked pretty well.  I had about 60% participation of the students that should have take advantage of the opportunity.  For those that did it helped, and they were able to raise their end of the semester single letter grade.  This is something I will defiantly do again.

However, the point of this post and main “final” I gave my students this semester was an electronic portfolio that showcased how they met ALL of the goals in class.  First off I wanted this project to be electronic so that students couldn’t lose, destroy, deface, etc a paper portfolio when it was completed.  The site they created on Google Sites will be there for a while, and they will always know where to find it and can continue to add to it this semester.

I had this idea when I fully dedicated myself to SBG this year.  I liked the thought of students showcasing work and having something to show for it rather than just another scored assessment paper.  I just didn’t know where to start.  However, thanks to Twitter around the end of November I saw some people discussing their portfolio plans.  I came across a tweet form Sam Evens where he shared his portfolio template, https://sites.google.com/site/mrevansscienceportfolio/.  I liked this setup and with Sam’s permission I used his template and turned it into mine.  https://sites.google.com/site/bhschemistryportfolio/ and https://sites.google.com/site/mrwysockiportfolio/

Portfolio Home Page

From there each student created their own Google Site using these templates.  All of units and goals were already entered so all they needed to do was add in artifacts for each goal and write a little about each one.  I also had each student write a reflection on each unit.  Here are some links to some of the best work submitted:


Overall I really like this as a final and am planning to do it again next semester.  One issue I had is that I gave my students this project to work on the last couple of weeks of the semester and some scrambled to get the work done, which turned into me allowing more class time for project then I would have liked.  I did like how this forced the students to do and end of semester review of all the material, which is the point of a final.  However, I didn’t like the amount of class time needed get everyone “caught up” with all of the semester work.  I think now that each student has the portfolio all set up and ready to go this semester I will be emphasizing working on it throughout the semester instead of just at the end.

Technologically speaking Google Sites is quite easy and intuitive to use.  The major hurdle we needed to overcome was getting the pictures students were taking on their device to the computer.  One of the most popular ways was to upload their pictures onto the Google Drive app, and then when they were editing in Sites they choose Insert>Drive>Images.  This worked well as each image didn’t need to be individually uploaded to Sites.  However, when this is done this way Sites links the image to the person’s Drive.  In order for the image to actually show up on the website the picture needs to be “viewable to anyone with a link” or “public.” These are not the default settings so that is one additional step that needs to be taken.  Otherwise Google Sites was a great option to have students work with.

Mid-Year SBG Student Survey Results

I understand this is purely anecdotal, but it gives me a “snapshot” of the culture Standards Based Grading (or Learning Goals Grading as I term it to students) has created in my classroom.

At the end of the semester I asked my students to voluntarily participate in an anonymous survey about their thoughts and feelings towards SBG in my chemistry and physics classes.  I ended up with 34 responses to the survey.  About 55% participation.  Would have I liked more? Sure, but what was I going to do take points off?  He is what my students are telling me.

Midyear survey 2013 #1

I really like the fact the students understand the system.  It is something totally new to them.  No body else in my school uses this…yet.  So, at least I’ve done a good job being clear in my expectations and what how they are being assessed and evaluated.

Midyear survey 2013 #2

This is HUGE.  Obviously, the point of SBG is to help students LEARN.  I also realize that the students in my classes don’t have any other chemistry or physics classes to compare their learning to, just what they have experienced in other traditional grading classes.  Maybe it’s just the amazing teacher at work! 🙂

Midyear survey 2013 #3

I’ve implemented a color system for assessment feedback to avoid using a number based system at all.  I like it, the students seem to like/understand it, and again, they feel it helps them.  One comment I got about this revolves around having a more quantitative way to separate simple vs. more complex mistakes.  Since the only thing that really counts is if you get a green (mastery) or not, I’m going to be a little more liberal in giving our reds this semester to distinguish levels of misunderstanding.

Midyear survey 2013 #4

I think the results speak for themselves.  Of course you are going to have a couple of students that don’t like anything I do, but when the vast majority of results are coming back neutral or positive I can’t complain.  It also tells me that even if the system isn’t “working” to perfection and creating a perfect learning environment, it isn’t hurting anything.  I don’t see any reason to change what I’m doing, just a few minor tweaks here and there.

The last two questions were open ended, as you can see.  Google doesn’t display these results in a real user friendly format, but you can look through the comments if you wish.

Midyear survey 2013 #5

The overall themes I get from the strengths question has to do with the ability for the students to know exactly where the stand on particular goals, and what they need to focus on improving on. Along those same lines many students appreciate the continued opportunities to show improvement and ACTUALLY UNDERSTAND the subject.  Not just do enough to get by and move on.  That sounds like a win to me!

Midyear survey 2013 #6

I took one big theme away from these comments.  Students don’t like the fact they don’t have a single letter grade at any given moment.  This doesn’t surprise me in the least.  Our district has trained our students and parents to continuously monitor Skyward.  When they don’t see a grade it freaks them out.  The do all know they can go to ActiveGrade at anytime and see their color graph, but it’s just one place for them to go and there still isn’t a single letter.  This is and will continue to be a difficult culture to break.  I always say, “if you see yellow you can do better.”  That doesn’t satisfy them, because they want to know what they can do to make sure they have a A, B, C, etc.  Not just, “you can do better.”  I don’t want to “give in” to always having a letter grade available to them, I feel that defeats the purpose of SBG.

Granted, at the end of the quarter or semester I do have to turn all the assessment data I collected throughout the grading term into a single letter grade.  I do have a system to do this and have been pleased with how the letter grades get calculated.  I haven’t had to “justify” any grades just yet, but when I do I will be able to look at ActiveGrade and easily cite reasons for any particular grade based on WHAT THE STUDENT UNDERSTANDS ABOUT THE SUBJECT, not “he didn’t do his homework.”

Density Lab Challenge

At the end of modeling and practicing density I provided my chemistry classes with the following Lab Challenge (this idea took shape for me after seeing a Flinn email about how to make measurement interesting).  I’m not sure this makes it interesting, but at least there is some motivation behind the measuring, not just doing it for nothing.

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1) Pick any 10 items from the front tables and rank them in order of most dense to least dense.
2) Identify the chemical makeup (specific substance type) of the 10 items you measure.


Students spent the first class period making measurements on the different items.  Some chose to use water displacement for volume, others used rulers for the regular shaped items.  One of my big goals of this activity was to see how well students would remember all of the measurement rules and techniques we’ve already practices.  (On their first mass vs. volume lab many failed to estimate a digit in their measurements)  I also wanted students to show me they can organize a data table that contained ALL of their measurements (i.e. initial and final volumes) not just the actual volume they calculated.  This is my Lab Goal #1 LAB.1 – I can recognize the precision of a measuring instrument, and record data in an appropriate, organized manner.

The second Lab Goal I assessed the students on was LAB.2 – I can design and/or follow an experimental procedure that tests a hypothesis, investigates a phenomenon, or solves a problem.

After the first class period most groups had their measurements made and densities calculated.  Good start.

On day 2 I had the students finish their measurements and then begin searching online for densities of the various items.  I did not provide any lists or other resources for them, just told them to start searching.  As tech savvy as the students are when it comes to searching for real, relevant information they have a long way to go.  Some were fine, but others were just lost.  Part of my reason for this part of the challenge was to allow them to struggle a little bit in finding this information.

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Finally on the 3rd day I gave the class the task to sort all of the items from the front table from largest to smallest density.  Since each group only measured about half of the objects this took some class collaboration and problem solving as to how to handle this.  This task proved to be an interesting study in class dynamics.  Of my 3 classes each went about this in a different way.  One class had each small group put a post-it note on each item and then were able to sort them that way.  Another class had each small group put their sorted list of objects on the front whiteboard.  That class proceed to find the overall largest, and if there were multiple measurements of the same item took the average.  The final class had one representative from each group work together and started with the largest (kind of like class 2, but without writing everything on the front board).

As you can imagine there were definite challenges the group had.  But as I talked about with each class was that this was a good simulation of what “real world science” looks like.  Multiple small groups set out to solve the same problem.  Those small groups then need to come together and collaborate and agree on something.  They need to rely on each other and their data, and at the same time solve discrepancies that arrive between the sets of data.

Eventually the final product looked like this:

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I would have liked to have their predictions as to what each substance was made out of on the board here as well, but we had a tough enough time just getting things lined up.  Maybe we’ll discuss that the next day, but maybe I won’t worry about it.  I talked with most individual groups as they were using the internet and searching densities anyways, so we might not need that large group time to discuss that.

Overall I really liked this challenge activity as a way to conclude Unit 1.  This activity contained everything from experimental design, measurement, mass, volume, and density.  If there is one thing I would change for next year it would be that on Day 2 I would have the class begin the process of organizing all of the materials right away since the groups have the densities.  I would then have the students do the searching as homework or at the same time as the objects are being organized.  I think that might be a more efficient use of time and would save us a class hour.  But then again maybe not.  Can you really rush good science?


Labs with SBG

How to handle labs and lab assessment always seems to be an issue with teachers who use standards based grading (SBG).  Wednesday (9/11/2013) night during the Global Physics Department meeting about SBG this was a topic of conversation.  Like with most issues that arise with SBG there is as many different answers as there are teachers that utilizes the grading practice.  In this post I intend to share with you my practices and ideas.  As with most things I do in my classroom, these ideas and practices are always subject to change.

Importance of Labs
As a modeler, labs are EVERYTHING.  This is where knowledge and understanding of the subject is gained by the students.  Units usually begin with a model building lab and everything else goes from there.  I need my students not only to perform controlled lab experiments, but understand exactly what the data obtained is telling them.  I’ve come to realize that after about the 2nd or 3rd lab students “get that” and they are motivated to participate and complete labs correctly, including whiteboard discussions and model building.

For all of my years, except the first, but who counts the first year teaching anyways?  I try to block those memories of awful teaching out of my head.  Anyway, for all of my years prior to SBG I utilized a Lab Notebook in my chemistry and physics classes.  Students would be provided a “Lab Notebook Criteria” in the beginning of the year, and I expected all labs to be set up and written in a uniform format.  This included; heading, problem, equipment, procedure, data, analysis of data, and conclusion sections.

I like this setup for my labs.  It keeps students organized, and forces them to take some responsibility for their own lab write-ups.  However, giving points for the notebooks was always an issue.  Because I never wanted to collect 50 or so notebooks after every lab; I didn’t.  I would wait until the end of the quarter and collect all the notebooks then.  From there I would flip through each notebook looking at all of the labs we completed from that quarter.  I would “grade” each lab on completeness by using a checklist type rubric.  Basically the only way students lost points is if they didn’t do something, like forgot a heading, or didn’t attache the graph, or didn’t answer the conclusion questions.  (I didn’t even read answers, just checked to see that something was written down.)  This process usually made for a couple of hours sitting at school on a Saturday or Sunday to “grade” each notebook.

This process troubled me for several reasons.  By the time I scored a lab we might be 5-6 weeks past talking about it in class.  Getting points for the notebook was just a “game.”  If you wrote something for each section you got your points.  This never really showed me what a student learned in the lab (granted I assessed for that in different ways throughout the quarter.)  It didn’t hold them accountable, or give them the constant feedback they need.  Plus those couple of weekends a year really sucked when I was at school just flipping notebook pages.

SBG Labs 1.0
Last school year (2012-13) was when I started SBG, but only in physics classes, so the following only pertains to that class.  Chemistry followed the procedure above.  When I was planning for SBG I relied heavily on Frank Noschese and Kelly O’Shea.  By reading their blogs and stealing files I saw they had a nice set of lab goals, so decided to create a set of 5 Lab Goals myself.  They were this:

LAB.1(C) – I can design a reliable experiment that tests the hypothesis, investigates the phenomenon, or solves the problem

LAB.2(C) – I can record and represent data in a meaningful way.

LAB.3(I) – I can analyze data appropriately, by representing data graphically, and by using the graph to make predictions.

LAB.4(I) – I can identify a pattern in the data, and represent the pattern mathematically.  I can give physical meaning to the slope and y-intercept of a graph.

LAB.5(A) – By using the results of an experiment I can propose an appropriate model for the situation.

These five goals seem to be the essence of what students should be able to do by participating in lab activities.  The problem I ran into was how and when to assess these goals.  The idea of SBG is that I want to see students accomplish these goals by the end of the semester or year.  These goals would be constantly reassessed throughout the year, and only what you have shown at the end counts..  What I decided to do then was not use lab notebooks, but try to find ways to include items on quizzes that would address these goals.  (Except I found the first two to be difficult to assess that way.)  Instead of lab notebooks I included lab forms in my unit handouts along with practice sets and other activities.  This caused the problem of never being able to conveniently collect the labs, because I wanted to students to have their packet for practice throughout the units.  Overall, this system worked out alright, but some students figured out there weren’t really being held accountable to actually write anything down during labs.  I saw this as an issue.

SBG Labs 2.0
The following describes a work in progress.  I’m working with a lot of theory here, hoping some changes will address some issues.

Overall I liked the idea of having general lab goals so I’m keeping that.  I did make a couple of adjustments though.  This summer I consulted with Terry Schwaller, an awesome modeler from Shiocton, WI, to help develop Modeling Chemistry Goals.  His ideas merged with mine and I settled on the following six lab goals:

LAB.1(C) – I can recognize the precision of a measuring instrument, and record data in an appropriate, organized manner.

LAB.2(C) – I can design and/or follow an experimental procedure that tests a hypothesis, investigates a phenomenon, or solves a problem.

LAB.3(I) – I can analyze data appropriately, representing data graphically when necessary, and use it to make predictions.

LAB.4(I) – I can relate the results to the purpose of the experiment, and include appropriate analysis (slope, y-intercept, % error, % yield, etc.) when necessary to show if the purpose was met.

LAB.5(A) – By using the results of an experiment I can propose an appropriate model for the situation.

LAB.6(A) – I can connect experimental outcomes to the content of the course.

I’m using these goals with both my chemistry and physics classes, so I needed to keep them a little flexible in their interpretations.

I also realized this week that I missed a couple of important goals for chemistry so I added them:

LAB.S(C) – I can follow accepted laboratory safety procedures.

LAB.E(C) – I can recognize and properly name commonly used laboratory equipment.

The main reason for this addition is that I like to have a “Safety Quiz” on file that shows me, and administrators, that the students know basic safety procedures and equipment.

What I’m going to try to do this year is not do labs in a lab notebook OR in the unit packets.  My thought is that I will provide students with lab handouts for each lab.  Some labs will have written procedures from me (chemistry) and some will be more “design you own” where students need to write about their procedures (physics).  The general lab handout form is here: General Lab Handout.

As of right now my thoughts are that I will be able to easily collect these when I feel it is appropriate without worrying about hauling a ton of notebooks around, and at the same time not “stealing” other valuable stuff from students in packets.  I’m also going to only assess a few things at a time.  Maybe for the first 2 or 3 labs I’m only going to assess students on goals 1 and 2.  By lab 3 or 4 I might look at graphs (goal 3).  By the end of the semester I will be able to assess on all the items contained in the lab.  I could also use this form as a guide for students to turn in a more formal lab report.  Something I’ve never done before.  I also will also still be able to add assessment items on weekly quizzes or unit assessments.  Especially items that assess goals 5 and 6.

Like I said, this is all very fresh in my mind and hasn’t been classroom tested yet.  If you have any thoughts or ideas I would love to hear them.  Comment below or tweet @MrBWysocki

New Year, New Project

It’s been a while since I’ve actually written on here.  I had a lot of intentions of doing so at the end of last year but I always found excuses not too.  I’m going to try a bit harder with the new school year.  We’ll see how it goes.  My plan is that I will continue to use this blog to share ideas with other teachers.  My focuses are on ASU’s Modeling Chemistry and Physics curricula and Standards Based Grading.

As the new school year begins so do the new ideas flowing through my head.  My biggest idea I would like to share with you is my new 180 Blog.  I know 180 Blogs are not new, but my own personal one is new to me.  My plan is to use my 180 blog as most do, to allow a look into my classroom each and every day of the school year, all 180 days of it.  The goal of this 180 blog will be to use it as tool for my students, with them as the audience.  When students are gone from my class for whatever reason I would like them to use this site a place for information as to what was missed.  Because of the nature of modeling it’s not always easy to have things prepared for students prior to a days class, it is much easier, and I think more important, to review what happens rather than try to predict it.  So please add mrwysocki180.wordpress.com to your follow list and please let me know if you have any ideas or suggestions for me.

“But We Were Told Light is Waves”

It’s amazing what some students have heard and believe on “school faith.”

As the first activity in my Physics 2 class we do the Pinhole Camera with a light bulb and view the image on a screen. The first day I showed the class how to create a simple pinhole camera out of a box and some aluminum foil (if you want to see what mine look like let me know.) This year I rewrote the lab to be totally inquiry based. They made a number of general observations and wrote 7-10 “I wonder…” statements or questions, they then experimented and tested their “I wonder…” statements and made observations. This rewrite to an inquiry lab was great. All of the groups wondered about and tested the same things I had on my previous version of the lab (move the screen, move the bulb, make a bigger hole, make multiple holes, use two bulbs, etc). So that part of this process was excellent.

The next day after a brief discussion about some of the observations we saw I instructed each group to create a model on a WB for the situation. I reminded them that the model should be simple, but yet be able to explain ALL of the observations they made. Here are two of the models I got:

Pinhole Model 1

Student justification: “Light travels in waves”

Pinhole Model 2

“I was told light is a particle that travels in waves.” Thus the dots in wave form here. I find it interesting that the waves keep getting bigger. The student had no particular explanation for that, just that they were waves.

I keep trying to ask “what about this lab shows that light travels in waves?”

“I don’t know, but it does.” was a common response.

It took myself and another student group about 20 minutes to finally convince the bottom group in particular that we don’t need to model the light as waves. And even now I’m not sure if they bought it or just wanted to be done with the conversation so they gave up.

“Why can’t we use straight lines.” another group said. Their board did show a linear model for the light, and they had the arguments to back it up.

“We have no evidence to back up the claim that they are waves.” I said. “Straight lines explain the behavior and it’s a lot simpler to use then draw crazy wave forms.”

I went on to say that “we haven’t “disproven” the idea of light as waves, but we surely haven’t proven it. Science comes with the burden of proof.”

So as I analyze this class discussion a couple of questions come to mind:

1) Do other modeler fight this battle of using a model that we have evidence for vs. what they have been told. (I find it A LOT in chemistry too, especially with the atomic model)

2) Was this a lesson for my students about science at its finest? Did I end the discussion too quickly because I wanted to “keep moving?”

3) Should I let them use their mental model until it totally breaks down and/or becomes too difficult to use?

If you have any answers or thoughts about these questions, please comment below.

Semester Review AND Building the Constant Acceleration Model

This week if finals week at school so our normal cycle of learning gets interrupted.  I’m lucky this year however that we are in the process or building our constant acceleration model.

I know it seems late in the year that I’m just starting constant acceleration, but I went with the a “Unit 0” to start the year, and then Constant Velocity and Balanced Force before Acceleration.  I definitely like the change in order but it has taken me a long time to be comfortable to move on when students were still working through understanding everything.  By using SBG I’m able to track that as well.

So today served as a silver bullet for me and my students.

I gave my students the following guidelines for their task today:

CVM Review AND Building CAM

Basically I asked them create a whiteboard that will both review what the graphical models of constant velocity show as well as to extend those ideas to the graphs we looked at from carts speeding up and slowing down on a ramp.  (We used Motion Detectors prior to this to see the graphs and shared whiteboards about the data collected, but we didn’t finalize ALL of our thoughts.)

I said they can organize it anyway they wish that makes sense to them, and will help them review and hopefully draw connections between the two models.  Groups will share their boards tomorrow during our “semester review” time.  (I will try to post some pictures of what they come up with).  I will let you know how that turns out.

As always, if you have done something like this, or have some ideas for me to improve, or have questions about what I’m doing PLEASE comment below.

Calculating a Letter Grade with SBG

Overall I’m very pleased with the way my 1st quarter of Standards Based Grading has gone.  This last week has been the first time all year that I’ve now been getting some questions and having some problems with SBG, both with students and parents.  I don’t think it is a coincidence that this week is when 1st quarter grades were due.  Students and parents have been so trained to focus on one simple letter to summarize an entire 9 weeks of learning.  Looking at multiple pieces of data and really analyzing where and why they are “getting it” or “struggling” is going to be a tough battle.

I thought about getting away with not assigning a letter grade at all, but I knew if I did that all heck would break loose.  So I went to my original formula I had come up with before the school year.  That formula looked something like this:

My idea here was that my “Core” goals would be worth 60%, “Intermediate” goals worth 30%, and “Advanced” goals 10%.  This would basically mean that in order to pass physics you would need to master AT LEAST all of the core goals.  Seems reasonable right?  The problem I ran into as I started looking at all the data is that some of the core goals were actually tougher to master than my intermediate goals.  I might have to do some reconsidering of each goals level, or something.  Not sure about that yet.  As I calculated letter grades based on this scale I had students with Fs and Ds that had not yet mastered some of the core goals, but did have success with some of the Intermediate and Advanced.

Anyways, what I started to consider was the argument about how an F on a traditional scale is disproportionate with the rest of the grade levels.  So I made the following adjustments to my formula:

The way this works is the even if you don’t master a single goal in my class you will have a 50% on a percentage scale which is obviously still an F.  I still wanted to put more weight on the core goals and less on the advanced.  So this seemed to have solved the problem.  As I analyzed the percentages based on this formula it seemed to me to pass the “eye test.”  What I mean by that is that if I was able to subjectively give letter grades this formula better matched letters grades to what I thought students should have earned.

I’m sure this isn’t the perfect system, and ideally we could avoid the dreaded letter grades all together, but I just don’t see a way around that right now.  I wanted to have a system that could be backed up by the data, and some way I could justify a student’s grade.  For now this seems to have done the trick, however parents haven’t received Report Cards in the mail yet.  I might have to edit this post next week…