Monthly Archives: June 2015

Standards Based Grading and Failure in the Ninth Grade

I’ve been considering transitioning to Standards Based Grading for the coming year and am almost certain I’m headed that way. With that on my mind, a teacher friend shared this article “Why Ninth Grade is the Pivotal Grade for Dropping out of High School”. In it, the author interviews Camille Farrington a researcher who said, that after failing ninth graders have an impossible hill to climb:

” But even those who vowed to buckle down and try hard, they found that even if they kept apace from then forward, the fact that they had these zeros kept getting averaged in. They weren’t able to shake the past failures, and it became impossible to dig themselves out of the hole.”

Is that what 9th grade should be? A life long punishment for not getting with an archaic system on day one? A system that you don’t know or understand how important your success is? I don’t think so – the stakes are just too high. It’s also another reason to make sure I transition to SBG for next year.

New Adventures and a New Course

In the past few weeks, I’ve packed up what little I own and drove it from Memphis to Phoenix, Az. I’ve accepted a new position next year teaching High School math and am incredibly excited about it. Hopefully now that I”ll be teaching exclusively all year I’ll have a better plan to share and keep reflecting here. Changing mid-stream into the classroom was really rough last year. Phoenix is hot, but I’m enjoying it so far 😀

My new job includes creating a course “Math Foundations” for struggling math students in grades 9 (and possibly ten). All these students are enrolled in another math course and it hasn’t been offered before. Every student at our school will take Calculus, so I decided to backwards plan from College Board documents to give me some direction as to where to go. I’m still thinking all this through and working with the admin team to make sure it meets their vision. I’ve never made a new course without any standards to guide me so it’s kinda nerve-wracking……..

I made this giant table, breaking down skills that the AP Exam covers and other formatting information (like answers should have three decimal places and exposure to open responses). Some of it will serve as expectation reminders for myself (like the decimals) and others will become the focus of my new course.  There are some giant holes (like all of Algebra 2…..) and probably some misconceptions I have about CCSSM but its a very rough first draft to start thinking about this new course.

Right now, the new math foundations will include: Ratio/Proportion, Ability to estimate angle measures, Linear Functions (content from new 8th grade CCSSM), Symmetry, like terms, evaluating exponents (like (-3)^2), substitution, graphing ordered pairs, creating tables, finding the average rate of change, Modeling, Calculator skills, Units & Conversions (through Estimation 180), finding the mean/simple stats. In all my new courses I want to emphasize: Reading from a math textbook to learn content and writing/explaining answers. Adding mathematical writing isn’t an option – I value it and want to see it happen.

I’m up for any feedback at all. This course could turn into “The best of #mtbos” and that’d be fine with me 🙂