Some Back to School Updates

I hope you’re enjoying this long weekend! I wanted to check in with some updates on how back to school planning is going and some changes my school is making. I could use your help if you’ve experienced any of these things yourself.

So first, the basics:

  • I teach high school in Lawrence, MA and we are starting the year remotely for the most part. Some students who meet a particular “high needs” criteria will be in school with teachers.
  • I started virtual professional development on August 31st.
  • Students’ first day of school is September 16th
  • We are running on an A/B day schedule with 70 minute classes
  • Currently our union is fighting with the district on whether or not teachers must teach from empty classrooms 5 days a week rather than teach from home.

I think that’s it for an overview. Now for the stuff I could use your insights or advice on:

Some of my colleagues read Grading for Equity during quarantine and have been sharing their key takeaways with us during PD. In response, our school is implementing the following 3 changes:

  • A grading floor of 50%
  • Homework and classwork will not be graded
  • Students can retake assessments multiple times
The Grading Floor of 50%

I’ve experienced this kind of grading policy in two schools I worked at previously and don’t have any philosophical issues with it. The most immediate argument tends to be: No work, no points. Why should a student who doesn’t do work receive points? There’s usually some push back on the “fairness” of that.

Homework and Classwork Will Not Be Graded

At first I was like uh…what? How does that work? How are students incentivized to do anything if there isn’t a point value reward attached? I’ve come to learn that just because homework and classwork don’t go into the grade book doesn’t mean that they aren’t or shouldn’t be tracked for kids to see their progress and struggles. I’ve completely turned a corner on this and am excited to give it a try. But…I don’t really know how to start and my students have never experienced an academic shift like this.

If you have any advice or thoughts on how to normalize this, please leave a comment at the end of this post! I’m also easy to get a hold of on my Instagram @cobbleandbrick if you want to shoot me a DM.
Students Can Retake Assessments Multiple Times

Since students’ grades are now solely based on assessments, they can retake them as many times as they need to until they demonstrate mastery. There are obviously confines to this–eventually the term or school year will end–but for the most part, they have the time to practice those weaker skills until they improve. There are also logistical complications: how do I move onto a new unit if a student hasn’t truly learned the concepts from the one before? It’s especially tricky in STEM and history classes which are more content-focused whereas English is more skills-focused and cyclical.

Do you have any experience with this policy? If you have any advice or thoughts on how to normalize this, please leave a comment at the end of this post! I’m also easy to get a hold of on my Instagram @cobbleandbrick if you want to to shoot me a DM.

Ultimately, these changes are necessary and right, despite the challenges they present. Thank you so much for reading and sharing any advice you have! If it’s helpful, check out the Free Resources drop down on my home screen. There’s a link to my Cobble and Brick Google Drive where you can download any resources that might be useful to you!

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