Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Establishing Mastery Culture

By Kim Miklusak

This year the English Department has rolled out common expectations for all grades and levels.  We hope that these agreed upon norms will create consistency in mastery and rigor for all students.

1.  Common Weights & Categories:  30% Writing, 30% Reading, 30% Grammar, 10% Habits of Work (sophomores and juniors; freshmen and seniors have adjusted percentages for an "oral communications" category).  This shifts the focus to a more standards-based learning approach.  Teachers and students will be cognizant of what category or categories each assignment goes into.  For example, if a writing assignment is scored in writing and grammar, the students should be aware in advance of how and why the assignment is being scored in each area.  This reporting will also allow parents, students, and teachers to be able to clearly identify areas of strength and weakness.  Previously categories were designated as "major assignments" or "writing" but the effect was that it muddled together skills that did not accurately report out in grade form.

2.   Revisions: Every major essay requires two revisions for the first semester.  This will instill in students, again, the continuing importance of multiple drafts as well as mastery culture.  The first grade will be a completion grade and will be reviewed by a peer, a tutor, the author, or a teacher--at the discretion of the teacher.  The students should then ideally write a brief reflection, summarizing what and how they will revise, thus requiring students to be conscious of their writing.  By the second semester, the requirements change where students who receive a D or F are required to revise, but students who receive A, B, or C have an option to do so.  This focus shifts in order to aid the students in AP who will now be required to write a timed, graded essay on the AP exam in May.

3.  Habits of Work: This is a debated topic; however, the consensus was to remove "on time" points from major assignment grades. Again, this practice muddled what the grades meant and how parents and students understood them.  Now, for example, it's clear that a student can write a quality essay but struggles with completing work on time.  Additionally, the habits of work points serve as a placeholder to demonstrate that a student has completed a first draft even if a second draft is still pending.

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