Skills Based Grading

Welcome to a new way of looking at the classroom – and a new way to learn.  We’re going to be doing some things differently in our physics classroom this year.  What sorts of things?  Everything!  Your grade, your homework, your way of learning – you are finally in the driver’s seat!

During this year, you will be learning information related to many topics in physics. In this course, a non-traditional criterion-based assessment system is used. Rather than using a standard point system to record scores on various assignments, quizzes and tests, you must demonstrate your level of proficiency on various learning goals. For example, instead of getting one grade for a worksheet that may cover many topics, you will be scored on individual learning goals such as, “I can interpret/draw d-t graphs for objects moving at constant velocity.” These learning goals and achievement levels for each will be provided to you.

Grades will be assigned based on descriptors of achievement only. Grades will not be affected by issues such as effort, attitude, participation, and attendance. Those factors will be reported separately.

New information showing additional learning will replace old information. Grades will reflect the trend in most recent learning, which means that you will have multiple opportunities* to improve your grade. Maybe you forgot about a test, or were having a bad day. In this class you have the ability to go back and relearn the things you didn’t know, and improve your skill level on topics in need of improvement. This also means, however, that cramming information into short-term memory will not benefit you in the long run, as skill grades can also decline if mastery is not maintained. I don’t want grades to be a stick, and I don’t want you to be scared of them. I want grades to be a carrot, a motivator, and I want them to mean something. I want them to be a communication device that tells us both where you’re strong, and where you need to focus your efforts.

The key to success in this course is consistency in study habits both inside and outside the classroom.  To assist in this manner, in many portions of the course, homework will focus on mini-lessons to learn new material, while class time will focus on hands-on activities and problem solving (a “flipped” model compared to most classrooms where materials introduced in the class, and practice occurs at home).

If your score on a skill is 8 or less, you may re-attempt assessments at the instructor’s discretion, provided you have documented an effort to engage in additional learning (e.g., tutoring, additional practice, test corrections, etc.). In addition, an alternative assessment may be accepted if the work is pre-contracted between you (the student) and me (the teacher). Deadline for reassessments will be within one week of the unit test, and all reassessments within a quarter end one week prior to closing of quarter grades. Year-end course grades will be assigned as an average of the four quarter grades combined with the final exam grade.

* The fine print: You many not reassess a skill more than once a week, and you may not test on a skill on the same day that you receive extra tutoring or complete a re-assessment contract.  Only one skill may be reassessed per day. Eligibility for a reassessment begins with a reassessment request form to the teacher detailing what skill you would like to reassess, what you will do to improve your skill level before the reassessment, and how the skill will be reassessed. In order to keep current on material, reassessments for any given skill end one week following the last in-class formal assessment.

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