Thursday, November 22, 2012

Now versus later... Grades, GPA, Math & College.

So as a parent would I rather know of my child's struggles now or later?  I ask because I have taken the path that all students who can get thru my Algebra 1, Geometry, Algebra 2 sequence are college credit math ready (meaning they will know enough to take and pass college algebra for credit).  When you couple college/career ready idea, which is a "good" goal, with the fact that ~40% of incoming Freshmen to college are not testing into credit math you can figure that there will more than a few students who struggle in my class. {Side note that 40% had to take the Alg 1/Geometry/Alg 2 sequence so there is an issue}.  And it is easy to compare Little Johnny to Little Jimmy from a neighboring district where a 70% is a C and it is a D- at my school....  But I like our scale and I demand college/career ready skills.

The issue that was raised with my policy to make sure they're ready was with their GPA.  Now what I know and accept from the college admissions people is they don't put a lot of faith in GPA anymore.  So ACT and just an overall GPA is what they look for (we are not talking Ivy League here).

But at the same time a lot of my students don't react until they have a solid D going (or lower), and even though I allow retakes on everything - multiple times - a students own rosiness on what they can do makes it so some get Ds first quarter.  (I react at the D/D- level with mandatory rework for the student, except with students in Pre-Calc Calc and Senior Math -- these upperclassmen should be ready).  I always talk about the semester grade, effort and the need for the student to get the math skills to succeed at college.  But I have hit the GPA argument too, how is the student going to get into college with the D (or even a C with some parents).  My reply is they will get the skills, do well on the ACT and get into an appropriate college.  Better to struggle with me -- I care, push, provide extra work and opportunities -- versus at college where a remedial math student is admitted under a cloud of graduation uncertainly. Where they don't have an ally.....

Some of my benchmarks for performance are based on my acceptance of two things: 1) if you don't use it you lose it and 2) I know that the average student will not work at a subject hard for a grade, so I make everything about the skills.

What that means is my curriculum and grade system is set to make college ready math students.  It does not incorporate things for "nice or good" students, it does not give fluff at the end of the quarter so the parents won't yell at the students or me.  (Or the best where parents yell at students, then student says "It is not my fault," and they then call me and without pause start yelling at me...)

So I expect students to learn, understand and apply all skills in the 3 courses at any time in the 3 courses once mastered.  I quiz twice per week on these skills with no partial credit.  It means I can give a factoring quiz in middle of Geometry, or a congruent triangle quiz in Alg 2.  Or a quiz on basic 8th grade material anytime I want....

To end, I am unable to tell a student they have an average grade {C} if they cannot move to the next task -- college or career.  I am willing to work with them, help them, console them but I will not just pass them....