Tuesday, August 21, 2012

New grading scale, still not grading homework...

Only during my first year of teaching did I have the class grade homework (or me).  Since then I have never wasted class time or planning time grading homework.  I have always felt it was a complete waste of time, I also have never had homework count for much in their grade and I am trying to find a method that makes homework required without keeping a grade on it.  I spent my time on other formative and summative assessments.  My feedback methods are working in class with them.

Last year I assigned homework daily, aiming for 2-3 hours per week outside of class.  On daily work for practice I always provided the answers and assign work they knew.  My projects I assign as homework are not designed for one solution but can have many answers and are more about providing support of a solution (will talk about in a later post).  I simply had the students turn in the homework for about 5% of the student's grade.  I coupled that to a policy of all homework had to be completed (Homework FAQ).  There are 2 sides - the grade side and the responsibility side.  I was carefully not to mix the two; so late work was full credit - the consequence for missing homework was staying with me outside of class to complete.  But yet their grade had 5% credit....  Why?

So lately I have read blogs on homework they had 3 things.  They suggest traditional 10-20% for homework, graded in class or by teacher (nope) OR two other ways on how to handle homework -- 1) assign suggested homework and let assessments be the grade  & 2) assign homework count it for a little, based on completion.  I have been on #2 for a couple of years and want to move off it -- thru a migration so the community can keep up.  But I am not sure what it should look like....

My problem with number #1 (assign suggested homework and let assessments be the grade) is HS students make crappy decisions, they will not do the work.  And often by the time they react the damage is too high....   My job is to make sure they learn math, not just give an opportunity.  Often the blogs that suggest method #1 seem to be teachers of honor classes or high social-economic communities, where grades motivate.  I fear how this would work in my traditional Algebra 1 or Algebra 2 class.

SIDENOTE - for the record I assign very little homework outside of class to my struggling students (Pre-Algebra, etc).  They need to have instant feedback.  The little I ask outside of class is web based with instant answers (so they cannot do the problems incorrect).  Because even if they have answers they typically will not do problems incorrectly, math has become painful for them typically, and they just want to finish....

I feel like homework in my class this year will be only about 2.5-3% (migrating from 5%) based on completion.  I also plan to have assigned problems and suggested problems, which they would keep in their math notebooks (plan to check as they start warm up problems each day).  Finally the big changes, what I am seeing in my mind is a standards based grade mentality where I select about 10 standards per quarter to track.  Also I see myself continuing optional retakes but adding a lot more "mandatory" retakes on the standards, which would/could include additional outside of class work (tutoring, homework) for individual students based upon their weak spots.

This thinking starts the process of moving from grades to standards, but I would still issue a grade that is based upon assessments (tests/quizzes/projects) ~85%, the 10 standards ~12.5%, HW ~2.5%.  I think it allows the community to get their hands around what I am doing, making it the "new normal."

As always I would love to do something bigger and faster but I have to take bite size pieces or this becomes too much too handle.