Feedback: Final Essays

Your scores for this final essay are now available through Infinite Campus. Check your email first; you may have specific feedback or instructions from me. Then click below to see a copy of the rubric and the letter distributed and read to you on May 28:

Note that a small number of you may have had your tiered score on the rubric adjusted up or down by two points to reflects particular strengths or weaknesses. If you have not yet submitted an essay, you obviously have a zero. Schedule a conference to discuss the details—and note very, very carefully the requirements for that conference as outlined in the letter.

Before anything else, you should also read the following exemplary essay:

Note that it does what most of your essays do not do: It follows the guide closely; it includes research of various kinds; it balances anecdotes with empirical data; it offers value arguments and a policy argument; it even includes the elusive extended analogy, a requirement most of you just ignored. These strengths are more than enough to make up for some of the grammatical and paragraphing struggles.

This paper earns a 92, one of only a handful of papers to do so. Compare it to yours. Note the differences. When/if we conference, we’ll start with your understanding of what you didn’t do correctly; only then will we move into a discussion of how you might revise.

Adversarial Scores: EQ Discussion

We began our discussion of essential questions—the core of the essays you are in the midst of submitting—back on April 30, when we broke down the guide and began brainstorming possibilities for each of you. We did this adversarially to give you a carrot to chase. Your work was approved through individual conferences held between April 30 and May 2. Then you were given a post for discussion, both as an adversarial opportunity and as a means of focusing your writing.

Here is that discussion post. It was open for a total of 20 days. It has 27 comments.

Your scores can be viewed by loading the following document:

There were some small adjustments made to the 10-point scaling. Contributions online were worth slightly more than contributions made in class, due to the amount of time given to you to make those contributions. The gradations between tiers (e.g., 9+, 9-) were also stripped away to benefit those of you who contributed very little or nothing at all. Email me with any questions about this.

Q4 Contracts

On Tuesday, May 7, you will be given a contract that covers the rest of the year in English. You’ll have every assignment, due date, and expectation. You’ll also have a version of a previous warning: Failure to use your resources wisely, to take responsibility, and to finish these assignments will jeopardize your end-of-quarter average.

Check your email before you sign this contract. If you are in danger of failing the year, you will have an email from me immediately after this post goes live. You must indicate through a read receipt that you have seen this email to receive credit for signing the contract. Here is a copy of the document for your records:

As always, send me an email or speak to me in person if you have any questions.

Q4 Update: Against the Grade

Right now, I believe three things:

  1. Grades are more damaging than they are helpful to learning.
  2. Grades are unavoidable.
  3. Regardless, there is no excuse for not completing your work.

Your current Q4 averages are live through Infinite Campus. After you see them—and instead of immediately rushing over to me, apoplectic with confused rage—look at the description of each and every assignment. Note how many of them are not content but mere completion grades. Note how many of them are, in fact, 10-point scores for doing the bare minimum—handing in a typed copy of your essay, for instance, or just completing the required Castle Learning assignment. Note the adversarial for which you had nearly a month to boost your score.

Continue reading

Jerry Jesness, “Why Johnny Can’t Fail”

In 1999, a public school teacher named Jerry Jesness took to the pages of Reason magazine to discuss one of the most insidious problems in American public education:

The floating standard shields the status quo and guarantees the reign of mediocrity. If standards are set high but students lack the skills or motivation to meet them, the standards will inevitably drop. If many students in a given class take part-time jobs, homework will be reduced. If drugs sweep through a school, lower standards will compensate for the lack of mental clarity. Americans want quality education, but when lower grades and higher failure rates reach their own children’s classes, they rebel and schools relent. Americans hate public education because standards are low but love their local schools because their children perform so well there..

With the full article under your belt, you can begin to respond to it. Use to comments section of this post to earn more adversarial points by doing any or all of the following:

  • Develop your own position in response to Jesness
  • Tell anecdotes about your experience in and out of Brewster High School
  • Examine some of the strategies we highlighted in the essay

Whatever you talk about, use the text. Quote Jesness directly or paraphrase his ideas. The more text-driven your comments are, the more points you’ll earn; we’re after a conversation built around Jesness, not one that ignores him. (That means that those of you who didn’t finish reading are going to struggle, of course.)

One other thing about this conversation: Be specific, but be respectful. Don’t use teachers’ names, and don’t disparage anyone. Failure to follow this rule will get your comments deleted and you banned from the conversation.

Feedback: Q3 Adversarial #2

I’m going to let the facts speak for themselves on this one. Your grade came from your contributions to two adversarial posts about our current texts:

  1. TIM Adversarial: Sympathy for the Devil
  2. James Whale’s “The Invisible Man”

The first post was created on March 19; the second, on April 2. The adversarial was extended from its original deadline of April 1 to include the second post. The new deadline was set as April 12. You had 24 total days to enter the conversation and earn points.

Twelve students did not comment at all. Eleven students only commented once; three of the eleven left comments that were factually inaccurate.

On April 12, your scores were tabulated and converted as they always are:

The total points earned by your comments is reprinted next to your final grade. The conversion chart is included. The normal distribution of scores would give those students who did not comment a 55/100; therefore, the conversion chart was recalibrated so that students who left no comments at all received a 64. The grades scale up from there.

This grade is part of your third quarter average.