Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Replace Make Up Day With "GPA Day"

Today is the last day of classes--the remainder of the week is two short exam days and a field day/end of year celebration. Traditionally this is the time when I do two things with my students:
  1. End of the year reflections
  2. Give them a chance to make up work
I realized this year that I had too many students who were satisfied as long as they were passing, no matter what the actual grade was. If they were passing already at this point, they did little or nothing to improve their grade leading into final exams. If they were failing, they did the absolute minimum needed to get that passing grade, and then quit. This is the problem I intend to solve today.

I will shift the paradigm on my students a bit, first by changing how we talk about it. This is not "credit recovery" or "make up work" day anymore: this is GPA Day. We're not going to worry only about credits toward graduation (our school has a credit system modeled after colleges, but the principle will apply at this time of year for most schools). The first two graduating classes ever at my school have helped us focus on grade point average. Some of the graduates worked just enough to pass their classes and get the credits they needed, but had atrocious GPAs due to a combination of failures and getting only the minimum grade possible when they did pass. This is now any easier idea to accept for our remaining students.

Second, I'll change what we do with our time that day. Making up assignments is no longer the sole focus--it's just part of the equation now. What I'll supplement that work with is comprehensive, whole year review assignments that will earn them points no matter what their grade is. I've put together materials that cover all of the most important topics we've covered this year, which is a good a way as any to end the year with.

Finally, we'll dissect grade point average: review what a GPA is, how it's calculated, and what it means for their futures.

In truth, this is a marketing experiment more than anything else. I think the language we use about everything at school is more powerful than most educators think. I just hope I can pull it off.