FAQs on Grades in Science Class

Dear Parents,

I’ve gotten a few emails from parents asking questions about how grading works in science class in the past few days. I thought you might be interested in my replies to the most common questions:

I notice that there are no comments written on my child’s assignments. How are they supposed to know what they’ve done wrong?

One of my goals this year is to help your students become better at assessing their own strengths and weaknesses — and realizing that they don’t need to rely on teachers and parents to evaluate what they are doing well. In order to do this, we’re spending a TON of time on self-assessment in class — both before an assignment is due and after it has been returned.

Students are provided with rubrics for every task and exemplars for most. We look at those rubrics and exemplars in class together in great detail. I also provide students with a list of the most common mistakes made on individual assignments when papers have been returned. After we’ve worked as a class to review assignments, each child is given time to work — either by themselves or with partners — to look at the rubrics, exemplars and lists of common mistakes to identify just what it is that they’ve done wrong. During that time, I’m available to meet with students who are still confused about their scores.

So while there aren’t written comments on student papers, every child is getting a bunch of feedback about every task in class.

I want to see my child do better in class. What can my child do to review the content that you are studying?

Another of my goals this year is to create review activities using Discovery Education — a tool that I’ve written about here on our team website and mentioned in class several times this quarter. These activities are available to every student online. They pair videos that cover our core concepts with review questions that mirror the kinds of questions that are on our assessments.

The best way for students to review what we are doing in class beyond school is to work on these review activities. I also use these activities as reworks for students who have low grades or as extra credit for kids who are trying to raise their overall averages. We’ve spoken about this in class a bunch of times this year, so these activities shouldn’t be a surprise to your students.

One thing to know: Many students have been coming to me having done the review activities, but having earned very low scores on the quizzes attached to the tasks. Please know that I won’t add extra points to a child’s average unless they are earning good scores on the review tasks. Completing the task isn’t the goal. Learning the content is.

Is there any way for my child to raise their grade in your room?

The answer to this question is almost always yes. I allow students to do review activities in Discovery Education to replace low grades or to add points to low assignments. I also allow students to write a reflection about the ways that they can improve individual assignments for extra credit. Points for both reflections and for review activities are added to averages as soon as students share them with me — and notes are added to individual assignments in Home Base so that parents know when their children have taken advantage of rework and/or extra credit opportunities.

If you don’t see these notes in your child’s grades, it’s time to get on your child! Everyone has had opportunities to raise their averages — and a ton of reminders about how to raise their averages — over the course of the quarter. It is, however, up to individual students to take advantage of the opportunities.

What’s your policy on accepting late work?

For better or worse, I accept late work up until the day that grades are due for each quarter for full credit. While a part of me is torn by this — I want students to learn that there are consequences for turning work in late in the real world — I also understand that middle schoolers are just starting to learn to get work done and to turn things in on time. They’re not perfect at being organized yet, and I don’t want to see anyone fail simply because they forgot to turn something in.

I have started marking assignments as “late” in my gradebook, though — and I have started adding comments to individual scores for tasks that have been turned in significantly late. If you see these notes and comments in your child’s average, please know that working on organization is something that would benefit your child in the long run.

While we’re pretty flexible about accepting late work in sixth grade, other grade levels have real consequences for late and/or missing work that may catch your students by surprise.

Hope this helps,
Bill Ferriter