Wednesday, August 21, 2013

My SBG Letter

This may or may not be of any interest to you, but this is what I hand out to my students along with their syllabus to discuss my version of Standards Based Grading.

Standards Based Assessment


            This class will be graded on a system known as “standards based assessment.”  Grades will be assigned for content knowledge based on understanding of the main standards needed in the course.  Thus, the grade for the class will accurately reflect the student’s understanding of the material from the class.
            This system has many positives for the student, teacher, and the student’s family.  Grades will be posted based on the concepts.  Seeing a 74% on the Chapter 4 test in the gradebook is not informative to any of the participating parties.  The student may have a wonderful grasp of three quarters of the material while missing only a single key concept or he could barely have a working knowledge of the entire chapter’s material.  On the other hand, an 80% on Trig Graphs is much more informative to all the stakeholders to show where the student may need to improve his understanding.
            The main goal of the class is to teach students the mathematical material for the course.  Thus, a student’s grade should reflect his knowledge and understanding of that material without being clouded by completion or participation grades, extra credit for material not related to concepts from class, or behavioral issues.  Any behavioral issues, nonparticipation, or incomplete homework will certainly be addressed, but will not be directly reflected in the grade for the class.
            Since mathematics often requires a good understanding of a topic before being able to work well with the following topic and because I wish for all students to understand all of the topics from class, I will give students the opportunity to retake assessments over concepts covered in class.  No graded assignment will be dismissed since every assignment is given for a purpose.  Retaking an assessment can help students more accurately show their understanding of the material and helps students to learn the material before getting too far ahead in the curriculum.  If a student has a bad day or does not fully understand the topic on the day of the quiz, he will have the opportunity to show his improved understanding at a later time.  I care less about when the material is fully grasped than the idea that it actually is understood at some point.  That being said, grades and understanding of concepts can be time sensitive, so students will need to complete all retakes in a timely manner.
            The new grade will completely replace the original grade.  Thus, students should never give up on the class, no matter how low his grade gets.  As long as he is keeping up with the material in class and working on reassessing the material for which his understanding has improved, an F in the class can quickly become an A as zeroes are replaced with better scores.  The grade is constantly in flux and should be viewed as such.  Until the final grading period, parents should concentrate on the individual grades to see what their child should work to improve rather than the overall grade for the course.


  • Students may retake only ONE section per day.
  • Students must retake the entire section (even if it is more than one question)
  • Students may retake each section two times (in addition to the original)
  • To have the retake ready for the following day, students must sign up before 8pm (according to Google’s clock).
  • Students should be able to show proof of work done to improve understanding since the original assessment to merit a retake
  • Students may take it in during encore or before or after school.
  • The new grade replaces the old grade entirely (whether it’s better or worse) to reflect the current understanding.
  • Retake questions will assess the same concept, but may be drastically different in format or more difficult than the original.  Students should be prepared to demonstrate mastery of the topic, not just hope for an easier question.
  • Students must take all the retakes for this semester before the date to be announced.


The procedure for signing up for retakes will be done online.  Students should look at the teacher’s website for detailed instructions.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Our Little Baby All Grows Up

I lived for 11 years in Music City, Nashville, Tennessee.  I found myself putting music in a bunch of holes I found in my life (after breaking up a 5 year relationship, after leaving school, etc.).  Being there, when I was, I found a number of outlets to consume local, indie music.  In the early to mid 2000s, enjoying indie music was even cool, so there was the weird thing of being part of a popular movement whose whole point was to enjoy things that were not mainstream.

I feel like this is where we are with our online community of math teachers, affectionately known as the mathtwitterblogosphere (or MTBos).  We're the rising indie band who is a couple steps away from having Sony call to offer us a contract.  It's a little bit of a scary place.

Many of the things that define this community are directly related to the smallish size and "grass-roots" popularity that we enjoy.  Will we "sell out" if our little group grows too big?

On the one hand, we want our ideas and the group itself to be open to anyone and everyone who feels moved to join.  After all, what we do is for the kids.

On the other hand, it feels like we will lose a lot of the things I love about the group if it grows too big.

I was trying to tell my wife about my confliction with my vision of the future of this group.  Sarah asked if I wanted TMC to just be a little get together of my friends.  It hurt when she said it, because it sounds bad and exclusive, but I'll admit that I selfishly kind of do want that.   I have found some people that I would consider friends for life through this community and I am continuing to find more here and there, so I guess I shouldn't be worried about that part.  Whatever happens to the community at large, I can hope that people I really want/need to interact with will still be there for/with me.

Sam posted about the close-knit community we have.  How can we maintain that while growing much larger?  Will we split into groups (#geomchat, #algchat, #statschat, Northeast, West, Central, early adopters, newcomers, etc.)?  What happens when we're bigger than physical space will allow us to get together during the summer?  Would corporate sponsors at meetings help or hurt?

I guess what I'm saying is that change is hard.