Friday, December 17, 2010

Who'd a Thunk

I'm freeeeeeee. The last finals have been graded and entered. All the grades are done. No more school for 2 weeks. AND I got an early Christmas present in terms of final exam grades.

This year, for the 1st time in, oh say the last 8 years, I have not had to "curve" the living daylights out of their final exam grades to make them come out of the great dark cavern that would be their grade. Now I'm talking about my "average, grade level" students, my 10th grade geometry kids. Their grades went in as they stood, and everything was fine. Their final exam grades averaged in with their 6 weeks grades reflected how they did all semester. What happened? What was different?

The only thing I did drastically different this year was my form of retesting, or as I now like to think about it: benchmarking or "seeing-if-you-know-it-yetting". The fact that the kids HAD to come in multiple times to grasp a concept in order to be checked off on that concept made them really dig down deeper than they normally would and had them work through the repetition of practicing so that things had a better chance of sticking in their heads. With the old way, if they didn't know it by my set test time, well then oh well, too bad, we're moving on and won't visit this topic again until finals and good luck with that. With the new method, it's, oh? you don't know it yet? well keep trying and keep trying again and come on you can do it.

I think I've gotten over my: ackh! now they can slack off and not study for the FIRST test and just see what's on it way of thinking. Sure, they can do that, and for some maybe they do do that. The way I have it structured is that the MOST they can eventually make on a retest is 80% on a portion. That made it palatable for me in that they couldn't get 100%, and it wasn't as "bad" as an eventual 70% ... it was an extra carrot (but not TOO big of a carrot) for putting in the extra brain power to finish strong. AND now my final exam grades have cemented it for me.

Now. I only did this with 3 classes of size 19, 13, and 21. Ooh, I realize how lucky I am with small class sizes (from the days when I had sizes of 38, 44, 35,...). And I only did it with my "grade level" students. My advanced students did test corrections, and were good at it, and it served them well, and they were the population that got 96%, 98%, 90%, etc. on the final anyway. I don't know how I'd manage this or if it would be TOO unmanageable if I did it with more classes and had more kids. I guess maybe I'll find out next year depending on the type of classes I teach. But for now, I'm extremely happy with the whole process.


  1. Anonymous12:45 PM

    Wow! Such great results. I know you posted this new testing methodology a while back but, could you point me to that post or refresh my memory as to what the process is. I just finished grading the finals I gave in Algebra II and the class averages ranged from 68% to 72%. I was so disappointed.

  2. I'm a first year math teacher (7th graders) and I'm always so frustrated with how little they care about their grades. What I have discovered is what they value more than anything is their time. Requiring them to come after school to retest may be just the trick.

    I am curious if you do a "reteach" with them and when/how? I could require them to come in to re-take the test for up to an 80, but of those that are failing the test to begin with, only a fraction of them will care to study the 2nd time around.