Saturday, August 28, 2010

SBG: The Actual Implementation

For those of you who have read back a few posts, you know that my summer was spent researching Standards Based Grading (SBG). After lots of thought-provoking discussions both here and via my Twitter PLN, I kept creeping closer and closer to the final plan that I would actually implement once students arrived.

On the first day of school, I avoided any serious talk of syllabi, grading, etc, and instead chose to do some math. In Algebra, this was a "Graphing Stories" activity, while in Statistics, we looked at the court case of Kristen Gilbert, an "Angel of Death" nurse. The next day, though, it was time to get to the district required stuff - syllabus, pre-test, handing out textbooks, etc. In Algebra 2, I discussed SBG, but they really didn't get it much then. I told the Alg2 kiddos that we would have a quiz on Monday and it was material they would be held accountable for, even though I did not teach it. I handed each student an Assignment Sheet that listed Chapter 1's objectives and practice problems for each objective. I told them the quiz on Monday would cover Lessons 1.1-1.3 (a total of 5 objectives), so I would suggest they look over those practice problems over the weekend for those objectives.

The, Monday came... I gave my Alg2 classes a quiz over 1.1-1.3 and also went into more detail on how SBG worked. Each objective had it's own section on the quiz and had 3 problems of varying degrees of difficulty. I explained that if there was a section they struggled on, they could remediate and reassess. That night was a shock to my system though! It took me 5 hours to grade 58 quizzes!!! I went through first and marked all of the perfectly correct problems with a C and then then back through the others with more detail. It was a time consuming process to say the least! One thing I discovered was that either their arithmetic skills are lacking or they are very careless, because there were a LOT of minor errors! On Tuesday, I handed back the quizzes and explained to the students what the scale (0-4) meant and how it would show up on the online gradebook. Pretty much, here's an idea of how the scale works:

4 = 100% correct on all three questions = 10/10 in GB
3.5 = all three correct, but with single minor error = 9/10 in GB
3 = two questions correct, or all three w/ multiple minor errors = 8.5/10 in GB
0.5 = no questions correct, but valid attempt made = 5/10 in GB
0 = no attempt at all = 0/10 in GB

When I handed them back, I had the students write their scores on their assignment sheet, and then went over this scale, I explained that they could reassess any skill they wanted to, BUT, they had to show proof of remediation first. They could bring in their completed practice problems, they could go to a tutor and bring back proof, they could do a variety of things, but they had to show me that they worked on that objective before I would allow them to reassess.

Thankfully, my "Partner in Crime" - the teacher next door that is just an amazing person to work with - is trying SBG with me, so we sat down and ironed out some more details after seeing how long this process had taken. We recognized right away that we would need to have some rules in place to keep ourselves sane if we were to do this all year. Here's some of the guidelines we came up with:
  • Show remediation/HW when you appear for reassessment. If seeing a tutor, the tutor must sign off (with date) on your remediation work/notes.
  • Students can’t get tutoring and reassessment during the same session. (We don't want students storing info into short term memory)
  • Reassessment days are limited to Mondays and Wednesdays before and after school and during Homeroom period, all by appointment.
  • Appointments must be made 24 hours in advance, and you must let us know which LT's you plan to reassess.
  • In one session, only LTs from the same quiz may be reassessed.
  • LTs should be reassessed in a timely manner, typically within one or two weeks of original quiz return.

After handing back their quizzes, I taught the first official lesson of Alg2 - solving absolute value equations. The next day, I gave a "Checkpoint" of 2 abs value equation questions. When students completed the Checkpoint, they raised their hand and I picked up their paper. As a class, we then worked the problems together so kids would immediately know how well they did. We also talked about if they struggled on the checkpoint, that was a key indicator to them that they needed to make sure and practice on that objective. Then, that night, I looked over the Checkpoints and wrote feedback on them (not a grade) so that students would have a permanent record to refer back to. This process continued for several days and then it was time for another quiz. The quiz over Lessons 1.4-1.6 had 4 objectives plus a Previous Knowledge section. Each of the 4 objectives had 3 questions each and graded by the above scale. The PK section also had 3 questions, one each from 3 separate objectives from the previous quiz. The PK section is not reported in the gradebook, it is only for information. After quizzing, we continued on to Chapter 2 and instead of giving traditional tests per chapter, we plan to test periodically over a chunk of learning targets. We want the studets to get away from the idea of "this chapter is over, we tested on it, now we can forget it".

That brings us to now - this week we will be testing for the first time and as part of that, will be teaching the students HOW to study for a math test. Overall, this process has been rewarding, but a lot more time-consuming than I had anticipated. I have really liked being able to see where students have struggled specifically, and it's been interesting that almost every student has had at least one objective that they did very well in. Before, that success would have been hidden in the overall score. I've also appreciated the feedback from the parents and students when they see their scores and knowing what exactly it is they need to work on. There are still a few kinks to work out (especially in terms of time needed to grade), but I'm getting there :)

Now, off for a pedi and relaxation time! Have a great day :)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

What a Whirlwind Week!

Holy Moly - I've already been in school for 2 weeks!!! Where, oh where, did the time go? :)

The Good:
  • During our pre-service days, the meetings were short and time in classrooms was maximized. Even so, I still was in my room until 8pm the evening before kids arrived! Had a meeting with my evaluating principal to fill him in on SBG, just in case of parent questions or concerns, and his response was very positive.
  • On the first day with kids, we did math - it was great!!! The kids responded very positively, realized they would be working in partners and expected to work the whole hour right away.
  • When I did finally go over the "rules", the kids were staring at me blankly when I talked about SBG - so then on Monday, they took a quiz over Order of Operations, Simplifying Expressions, and 1-variable Equations. I did not teach the material at all, just quizzed it (previous knowledge). Went over SBG again and light bulbs started going off - "You mean we don't have to get a bad grade?" was a common question :)
  • When I handed back the quizzes the next day, I was very pleased to see how easy it was for me, the kids, and their parents to see which Learning Targets they truly needed to work on. Instead of throwing away their quiz like in previous years, the kids actually started reworking the problems, trying to find their errors! They got together with other students for help, came up to ask me, etc - SCORE!
  • On a daily basis, we have been giving "Checkpoints" of 2 or so questions from the previous day's lesson in Algebra 2 - it's been eye-opening to say the least. I am grateful for the opportunity to identify errors early on, and the kids know that if they struggled, that's a sign they need to make sure to do the practice problems for that LT, before the LT Quiz.
  • My students have been AWESOME so far in all of my classes. They have been willing to work hard, working problems, discussing with their partner, and overall great in their engagement during class.
  • My adaptation of "Rolling Down the River" for Stats really seemed to work well. I think my kiddos have a better understanding this year of Stratified Sampling vs. Cluster Sampling than ever before.
The Bad:
  • Due to budget cuts, class sizes are pretty large all around. I have 30 kids in my 6th hour Algebra 2! Sadly, many teachers have way more kids than I do :(
  • I did not anticipate the time it would take to grade the first quiz. It took me about 5 hours to grade 55 Algebra 2 quizzes. The next day, Partner Teacher and I sat down to clarify our grading scale to help that issue.
  • I was not prepared for the inconsistency of the student responses for seemingly basic problems - I thought we had done a good job of identifying Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3 questions for each LT
  • Writing feedback on the daily "Checkpoints" is also time consuming, but very worthwhile I think. I hope as the year goes on, it will get easier :)
  • A summer storm fried the VGA ports of the projectors in my hallway, so I'm making do with an ancient inFocus and a laptop that is so old, it has an interchangable CD/Floppy drive.
  • I've struggled so far to find my "mojo" - pretty much, I've been planning the next day's lesson the night before - that isn't going to work for me for much longer! :) So if you happen to have some spare "mojo" lying around, please send it my way!

Overall, I've had a pretty good two weeks, but I'm just plain ole worn out. I feel asleep last night at 8pm and woke up this morning at 8am... I'm already ready for Labor Day - I need the break!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Ready or Not...

The time has come yet again... time for new markers, shiny floors, and curious teenagers is upon us. Next week marks the official end of summer for me, with kids returning to the classroom on Thursday. With that in mind, it's time for me to put on paper all of the changes I plan to make, mainly so I can come back and remind myself periodically about the goals I had from the summer :)

  • SBG - As any reader of this blog should be able to figure out very quickly, one major change for this year will be Standards Based Grading (SBG) in my Algebra 2 classes. I'm not going to hash it all out again, because most of the posts this summer have been about SBG :)

  • Daily Warmups - Until I started really analyzing my classes this summer, I did not realize how much my daily warmup routine really bothered me! My previous routine was to give a handout on Monday with previous knowledge problems that the kids then turned in on Friday. While it was a great idea, it ended up more as a copy-fest for points :( This year, I am assigning partners based on the seating chart and will be doing problem solving and critical thinking in Alg2, with one day being a weekly multiple choice partner quiz in prep for our state exam. In Stat, they will have a different warmup on different days of the week, but again, they will most be with partners.

  • Feedback - I need to greatly improve on how I communicate to kids on where they are and how they can get to where they need to be. In my mind's eye, I see this happening a lot through "Quick Checks" (a quick HW like problem that they solve and turn in) or "Exit Slips" (a quick journal style prompt). Whatever I end up doing here, these feedback opportunties will allow me to see where kids are at, make comments on how they can improve, but they will not be "scored" in the sense that kids will get a number grade on the top of the paper.

  • Problem-Based Learning - I really like putting my kids in groups to "cuss and discuss" their way through a problem. I would like to gather more resources on good problems for both stat and alg2 that my kids can explore with their partner/groups. I find that in most cases, the discussion that occurs within the groups is way better than most of my lectures :)

  • Writing - I really would like my kids to have pencil-to-paper more often, whether that is working problems in class, a journal prompt, blog "scribes" in stat, etc. I have reaffirmed my belief in how much is learned through writing this summer. I started this blog for my own reflection and though I will never profess to be a "writer", there is something about writing and getting thoughts down on paper that is just powerful beyond words. I want to pass this on to my students as well and help them discover this nugget of truth.

  • Bookclub - One of the most powerful things to come out of this summer was the professional bookclub we started on twitter. We've read "Classroom Assessment and Grading that Works" by Marzano and currently are reading "Formative Assessment and Standards Based Grading" also by Marzano. Our next book is "How to Give Effective Feedback to Your Students" by Brookhart. While I love to read, I sometimes find myself putting things off. The bookclub is great for me because it keeps me accountable to a group of other professionals for reading and discussion. Of course, once school starts, our pace will slow down some, but I'm eager to continue learning with this amazing group of people!

I know this year has potential to be very busy and overwhelming, but I'm really excited about the changes I plan to make. This year will pose it's own challenges in terms of budget and morale, but I'm determined to make it a good year and I know with the support of my PLN, it will be!

What are the changes you plan to make in your classroom?

Let's make it a great year or not.... the choice is YOURS! :)