On experimentation and grading

I did something this quarter that you normally can’t do in schools, and that’s using my students to perform an experiment. I have two honors Algebra classes, and I decided early in the 3rd quarter that I was going to grade most of their assignments simply on completion. In other words, I wasn’t going to go through any of them question by question and decide, okay, this one is a 9/10, or this is a 7/10, or whatever. Turned it in, and it looks like you tried? 10/10. Didn’t turn it in? 0/10. Same late work policy as the rest of my classes; ie, if it gets turned in it gets graded and I don’t care how “late” it is.

One would think, that if the only grades that were possible outside of tests were either zeroes or A+, that would really skew grades toward failing or high-A grades, and with a group of honors kids, generally more predisposed than others to turn in work, one would expect to see higher grades across the board.

One would be wrong. This policy barely moved grades at all. Most of the kids whose grades changed also turned in more work. There was no skew to the extremes, because kids inclined to failing assignments also don’t turn in a lot of work, and the amount of work kids turn in is really damn close to the scores they get on the assignments they turn in. Find me a kid who turns in every single assignment on time and I’ll show you a kid getting an A. Damn near every time.

Tests, of course, are a great leveler, and one other thing I have to pay attention to is whether test grades are plummeting, which might also be a side effect of this policy. Once kids figure out they don’t necessarily have to work super hard on classwork, because missing a question or two isn’t going to hurt their grades, maybe they don’t learn as well and that shows on the tests? All I can say is I didn’t see it, and I was paying pretty close attention. I might take one of my regular ed classes next quarter and see how well this policy works; I’m not going to try and apply it to everybody, though, at least not until I’m certain what kind of effect it’s having, and I don’t have remotely enough evidence for that right now.

(Reminder: all grading is arbitrary. Yes, all grading, even the system you have in mind right now.)

Third quarter ended today. Two weeks to Spring Break, about a month to ILEARN, and then that’s year 19 done and dusted. Amazing how fast the year has flown by since I changed schools. Just amazing.

Wednesday grab bag

microwave-etiquette-meme-generator-vaguebooking-that-s-a-paddlin-94d7ad.jpgSorry about the vaguebooking yesterday; one of our cats has been sick for a while, got abruptly really sick yesterday and we spent the whole evening shuttling him around from home to the regular vet to the emergency vet and it really really wasn’t a good evening.  He looks like he’s going to pull through, though; he’s coming home (from the regular vet, who we had to deliver him back to) tonight to spend the night at home where, the thought is, he’ll be more comfortable.  Then he goes back to regular vet again tomorrow for the day.  Assuming there are no disasters tonight.  Cross your fingers; I’ve had enough of medical issues in general lately.

Did my first observation for the probation assistance team today; I have three days, more or less, to get my notes compiled together and sent out to everyone.  I have less to say than I thought I would, honestly; I spent most of the observation musing about what might come from putting the teacher on probation in my classroom.  Because, honestly, there were things working in there that simply don’t work for me, and the lesson plan itself may as well have been ripped directly from corporation paperwork– which is interesting.  Is that a weakness, because there’s none of the teacher in the lesson?  Is a strength, because they presumably recommend that lesson plan for a reason and this teacher is Doing it Right?  Which means, then, that I’m Doing it Wrong?  I dunno.  I didn’t see much that made me think the teacher should be let go, which is a good thing.  I just hope everybody else on the team feels the same way.  Writing up the notes will be interesting.

Day Three of wearing a Fitbit Force:  I walk about seven thousand steps a day, maybe, when I’m not spending the entire evening in my car shuttling a cat around to doctors.  I haven’t tried pairing it with MyFitnessPal or doing any actual exercise yet; I want to take a week or so and get a baseline for how much I move around during a day and then we’ll set some goals and make some adjustments.  One development:  I’m way more into the idea of a smart watch than I’ve been in the past; the idea of notifications being delivered via a vibration to my wrist rather than an an audible tone is wonderful, and I don’t ever want to be awakened by an alarm again.  Seriously, I could completely give up on the idea of fitness– fuck it, I’ll just be fat forever– and I’m still gonna wear this thing to bed.  Silent vibrating wrist alarms are fantastic.

Posts that are percolating;  reviews of the new Eminem and Latyrx CDs, as soon as I find the time to listen to the damn things, and that reminds me I never really wrote about the new Pearl Jam album, and probably a post on theology based on this piece at the Atlantic, which quotes people who I know from grad school.  Who somehow teach at Oxford now.

Yeah.  I know Oxford professors.  I think that probably confers nerd baller status, but maybe not.

I’m not writing that last piece unless I can do it in a way that doesn’t sound like I’m gleefully tossing grenades and lit torches around; I’d like to participate in a conversation and not just be an asshole. We’ll see how well it works.   In the meantime, click on the link; it’s worth the read.