2012

ALGEBRA & PRE-ALGEBRA

2013

(Teacher Phone Number & Extension)

Teacher Email Address

I would like to take this opportunity to introduce myself. My name is Teacher Name here, and I will be your child’s Math teacher for the 2012-2013 school year. This is a very special time in your child’s life. He or she will be learning many new things this year-academic skills, organizational skills, social skills, self-confidence, and responsibility. Your involvement in your child’s learning experiences will have a major impact on how well your child succeeds in school and later in life. By working together, we can help your child become the best person possible-scholastically, socially, and emotionally. Imagine the possibilities if we all work together for the good of your son or daughter; he/she can’t help but succeed. If your child has struggled in years past, and you would like me to keep a close eye on his/her progress, please contact me. You know your child well and it will take a few weeks for me to find strengths and weaknesses. I am looking forward to working with you this year as we help your child experience all the joys of learning. If you have any questions or concerns throughout the year, please do not hesitate to contact me. Your participation and encouragement will be major contributions to your child’s success this year! Standards-Based Grading My Math class uses standards-based grading. This means that students will be assessed against a list of skills/standards that they are to master. Grades on these standards change as students demonstrate improvement on these core ideas. A child that picks up a skill quickly will be given a mastery score sooner than a student that struggles. Therefore a struggling student will be given more opportunities to demonstrate mastery (and closer/more frequent monitoring). Skill Assessments Skill assessment grading is done using a competency based system. I have analyzed the state (ISAT), national (Common Core) and college readiness (ACT) standards for Algebra 1 and compiled a list of all the skills required (about 12-15 per quarter). Each of these skills is assessed separately. Students are given a skill checklist and calendar for each quarter that clearly lists the skill assessment dates and what skills are covered. Each skill is marked on a 4 point scale. Once a student earns a 4 twice she/he has earned mastery in that skill and will not be tested on it again. Within a quarter, skills can be retaken as many times as necessary until mastery is attained. When a student masters a skill (earns two 4s) the grade on that skill in the grade book goes to a 5—each skill is graded out of 5.

Skills Grading Rubric
You have completely mastered the skill on two skill assessments, meaning you received two 4’s, which makes your overall skill score a 5. You have completed this skill! You “get” it! You have demonstrated a thorough understanding of the concepts involved, have clearly showed all steps of your 4 reasoning, have used notation correctly, wrote exemplary and clearly, and have made no algebraic errors. You have demonstrated a thorough understanding of the concepts involved, but you might have made a small notational 3.5 error, or a very small (non-fatal) algebraic error. You are almost there! You have a firm grasp of the skill, meaning you have demonstrated a full or almost understanding of the concepts 3 involved, but you possibly didn’t show steps of your reasoning, didn’t use notation totally consistently, could have written clearer prose, and/or made a slight (but non-fatal) algebraic error. You still need help with this skill. You have demonstrated some conceptual understanding of the skill. You possibly have some confused reasoning, did 2 not completely answer the question, did not use consistent notation, wrote muddled prose, and/or made more than one (non-fatal) algebraic errors. You still need help with this skill. You have demonstrated weak or no conceptual understanding. You possibly have confused reasoning, poor prose, 1 and/or made one or more serious (fatal) algebraic errors. You still need a lot of help with this skill. 0 You left the problem blank; no attempt was made to solve the problem. You still need a lot of help with this skill.

5

Understand that these are the scores that will be entered into the gradebook. I use the information from practice, class work and assessments to help determine what topics the class needs more time and help learning. Students are expected to use the practice problems to help them to grasp the concepts and to use the feedback from the assessments to gauge where they are at in their understanding and prepare accordingly for the next assessment. Scores do not mean an answer

is right/wrong, but are meant to reflect how much understanding was demonstrated. It is possible to demonstrate good understanding of a concept without even finishing a particular problem. The goal of this system is two fold: 1. the grade is a more meaningful indicator of a student’s ability; 2. it provides more motivation and responsibility to the student. In addition to these skills assessments, students will continue to take larger tests at the end of each quarter (what I call a Quarter Final), testing their retention of the previous information from the course. Algebra 1 is a full-year course, with a District semester final (December) and a District end of year final (May). Despite mastering one skill in isolation, some students struggle when that same skill shows up in the middle of other unrelated topics. These “Retention Tests” will help me, along with your child, to recognize areas in need of review and remediation as the year progresses. Grading You will quickly notice that grades for this class look very different from others. I believe that a student’s grade should be based on what that student can demonstrate he or she knows about the subject. You won’t find a list of assignments in the gradebook. The gradebook instead will list the skills/standards I intend to cover in our classroom. If your child is unhappy with his/her grade, I not only allow, but encourage them to spend time reviewing and practicing a particular skill on which they have scored poorly. I will then allow them to demonstrate their growing knowledge in that skill and change the score accordingly. I also believe strongly that long-term knowledge is more desirable than simply being able to “pass a quiz.” My sincere hope is that my students will grow to recognize that learning (and consequently, grades) is something over which they have a great deal of power. Standards (70%) – The course is broken into specific standards (i.e. skills). All assessments (investigations, activities, tasks, etc…) will relate back to these standards. Students’ grades for these standards can change as their understandings develop. They may initiate a reassessment of a standard, and I will initiate compulsory reassessments. The goal is to have their grade reflect what they actually know, not what they were once confused about in the past. Quarter Exam/Mid-Term/Final (20%) – There will be comprehensive exams each quarter as well as a cumulative District mid-term at the end of second quarter and a cumulative District final at the end of the course. These scores are meant to reflect students’ retention of material and cannot be reattempted. Interactive Notebook (10%) – Notebooks will be graded each quarter. All class notes and notebook assignments are included, even for days when students were absent. At times I will grade an assignment and then have students put it in their notebook. They will be graded on quality of work, thoroughness, organization, and visual appeal. Frequent daily checks of the notebook will also be made and stamps will be given for completed, on time assignments. Classroom Portfolios All students were given a folder to keep in their math class all year long. It will hold all graded & returned skill assessments, quarter finals and their skill checklist. At the middle and end of each quarter, students will complete a selfassessment and be given a score for their folder (communication standard). At any point in time, students can access their folder and the skill assessments. Untraditional Homework Policy First of all, you may have become accustomed to a great deal of math homework each evening. While homework (i.e. practice) is still a vital part of the learning process, homework is a tool for students to practice the skills learned in class. I really try to limit the amount of work students are required to do outside of school because I believe that the experiences your child has on the ball field, at after school jobs, and with their friends are vitally important to their growth as human beings. I will be posting resources on Edline for them to access when they are having a difficult time understanding our class material or simply wish to study further. I do hope you’ll encourage them to talk with you often about what they are learning in my class. Homework/practice will be monitored for completion and discussed the next day in class. It won't however, result in a score in the gradebook. I am not going to penalize a student for not understanding the directions to a problem, for a family commitment, or any of the typical problems students experience with homework. I want my students to figure out how they best study, and do so in order to gain content understanding instead of just for gaining points. Make no mistake about it though, homework/practice is expected to be completed each day. I want my students to practice the

skills at home in order to reach mastery level on each learning standard/skill. Students can expect to have homework/practice nightly. I believe that this policy teaches responsibility in much more real way than forcing students to do homework that they may not need to do but do so just for the "points." Keep in mind that very few students perform well on skill assessments and finals without at least some practice; the sooner they learn to do homework for learning – instead of just for points – the better. Raising their Grade/Reassessment Procedures Students will have the opportunity to retake any Skill Assessment as often as they want until a week before the quarter ends (see Quarterly Calendar for the date) to demonstrate their knowledge of the standards. An improved score replaces the old score in the gradebook so that they are not penalized for “getting it” later than someone else. Reassessments are only available to students who make arrangements one day ahead of time, and may only be attempted once it is evident that new learning has taken place through extra help sessions, math club and/or additional practice problems. During lunch, after school or my Morning Math (7:20 – 7:50 Tuesday & Thursday mornings in my classroom) sessions are excellent opportunities to complete a reassessment and receive additional help. Students are not allowed to reassess the same concept twice in one day, however. In order to request a reassessment, all a student needs to do is fill out a reassessment request form and turn it in at least 24 hours before the requested reassessment. On the form, they choose a date and time for the test and identify the concept(s) they will be reassessing, no more than three at a time. I prepare alternate questions for the students so they are ready when they come to reassess the concept. Students can request alternate types of reassessing. For example, they can request a skill be given in an alternate format, such as orally or in a less “test-like” setting. See me for details. REMEMBER: Students should get help to learn the math skills BEFORE coming in to reassess. Fine Points 1. Students cannot reassess more than 3 skills at once. 2. If they want to reassess a particular skill more than twice, they will need to meet with me to talk about their understanding of the skill beforehand. 3. Every so often, I may ask students to bring their completed, corrected homework and their class notes for me to see before letting them reassess. 4. Students can reassess any skill until about a week before the end of the quarter. (That’s just to allow me enough time to grade and enter all the scores in the gradebook.) 5. Watch out for days when we don’t have school…clearly reassessments cannot happen on those days. Extra Credit In a standards-based grading system, extra credit does not make sense. A demonstration of mastery does. If a student feels that their grade does not accurately reflect their understanding, we can certainly make arrangements to demonstrate their understanding as a "replacement score" for a learning goal. Otherwise, extra credit will not be given. I realize that this may be a change from past grading procedures, but this grading system has many advantages to it. I will be able to communicate to you and to each student exactly what skills he or she does and does not know. A score of 18/20 (90%) on Chapter 1 test does not really tell you much. But a score of 5/5 on graphing linear equations tells you that the student knows how to graph linear equations and has proven it on at least two different skill quizzes. By the same token, a score of 2/5 on that same concept tells you that the student does not have a grasp of how to graph a linear equation and that he or she needs more practice. By allowing students to reassess, students can work on the concepts that they do not understand and show me that they do grasp the material with additional practice. Ultimately, that is what is most important- that students leave my class understanding the concepts in mathematics that are taught over the course of the year. I also hope that this system will take the stress out of testing, and put the focus on really learning the material. At the same time, with the independence this class will give, it will force students to be more responsible and to take ownership in their learning as a great preparation for high school. Please discuss the above with your student and make sure they understand that they are now expected to master EACH individual skill. Also remind them that they will have the opportunity for review and extra help prior to retesting. If you have any questions, please email me at __ or leave a voicemail at __. Teacher Name

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