My First Roadblock

Just as I was getting ready to head up to my room to see if I could get to Dan Meyer’s webinar this afternoon, my department head called me into her room.  I had shared my excitement about SBG with one of my co workers, who had shared it with the department head.  To make a long story short, I was told that under no circumstances could I used standard based grading in my Algebra II classes.  It would be okay for my Business Math classes but not my Algebra II classes.

After telling my co worker that we couldn’t proceed with our plans, I came home quite discouraged.  I teach in a fairly large school in a fairly large school district, and the department head seemed to be more concerned with uniformity between teachers than with what would help the students the most.  It took some of the excitement I was feeling for the start of the school year and trashed it.

So I went to the gym and worked out.  Some times that works.  This was one of those times.  My department head’s concerns were twofold: 1.  The students won’t do the homework unless it is graded. 2.  The students will abuse the formative nature of SBG.  I was told that every chapter had to have a summative exam.

I came up with a plan tonight that I think will allow me to move toward SBG and keep her happy.  I will continue with my instruction as though I am doing SBG: identifying the skills to be taught in each unit  and doing WCYDWT activities as much as possible.  The exams will test only the skills listed at the beginning of each unit and will be reported in grade book as individual standards, not just Chapter 2 test.

I will make sure this is acceptable to her before proceeding.  In this current educational environment, maintaining a teaching position is more important than winning a battle this year.  But I will keep on trying to get the full impact of SBG implemented in my classroom.

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SBG Claims Another Teacher

This is my first post on a blog, so I’m just a bit nervous.  I’m an old teacher, not quite 60, in my second stint of teaching, not in my major field.  I started my teaching career 36 years ago, left teaching to go into the “real” world, and spent 22 years in a variety of positions.  Five years ago, I approached the principal of our local high school about teaching chemistry.  He asked if I could teach mathematics.  When I said I could, I was offered a job the next day.

I spent the next four years trying to do what nearly every teacher does.  I tried to recreate the education I experienced in high school.  I loved being back in the classroom, but I felt that I was struggling to do anything more than being mediocre as a teacher.

Sometime last year, I came across the blog of Dan Meyer.  I was stunned by the ideas he expressed, especially the concept of Standards Based Grading.  I experimented with it toward the end of last year and was amazed by the reaction of my students.  So this year, I’m jumping into SBG with both feet.  The purpose of this blog is to share the ideas and experiences I have with SBG.  Tonight I want to share the way I am starting the year for comments and suggestions.

We have 11 minute classes on the first day of classes, so this will start the second day of class.  The students will divide themselves into groups of 3, a driver, a timekeeper, and a recorder.  The assignment for that night will be to determine the time it takes to drive     2 – 3 segments of Scottsdale city streets.  We will discuss as a class the best way to determine the average time to cover the segments.

The next day, the students will report their times.  We will put these on a map of the area.  The student groups will be asked to find the fastest route from the high school to a specific location.   They will be asked to prove that their method is the fastest.  The goal will be for them to develop the Dykstra Shortest Path Algorithm.  We will conclude by discussing the role of algorithm’s in the success and frustration of mathematics.

That’s my attempt to try to start off the year with an activity that will engage the students.  Fire away with any comments that may help me to do a better job.

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