My Grading, Homework, Make-Up Work Policies and Syllabus and Teaching Philosophy.
I have four grading categories that break down as follows: complete binder and homework (35%), tests and quizzes (30%), research projects and labs (20%), and attitude and behavior (15%). My grading is based on a straight percentage scale and not on a curve.
100% - 95% = A
94.99% - 90% = A-
89.99% - 85% = B+
84.99% - 80% = B-
79.99 - 75% = C+
74.99 - 70% = C-
69.99 - 65% = D+
64.99 - 60% = D-
A student who achieves a grade > 100% earns an A+, and a student who earns < 60% earns an F
It is important to understand that a grade reflects a students efforts in class. It is not my opinion on a students worth or capabilities!
My grades are on School Loop where students and parents can see their detailed grades on-line. I encourage students and parents to obtain the necessary information from the Fremont Unified School District to keep track of their progress in class. The Business office at Thornton can help you obtain this information.
Note the following symbols I use for grades
EXC = excused (student was legitimately absent and/ or cannot otherwise make up the work and should not be held accountable.
MIS = The assignment was never turned in. Students, it is gravely important that you turn in all assignments even if you have done a less than stellar job or did not finish it! The difference between a paper that is an F grade but was turned in, and a MIS grade ( assignment not turned in) is 50%!! MIS grades will kill your overall grade faster than anything else! Remember, a paper not turned in is the bottom of the hole, but a F paper that you at least turned in is half way out of the hole!!
My Four Grading Categories
A complete binder and homework is defined as the student follows my protocol for maintaining an up to date science binder that includes all current work completed. Students are expected to have their science binder with them everyday and be ready to have their binder evaluated for a grade at anytime. Students are also expected to bring their science workbook to class everyday as well. Workbooks can be checked for Pass Stamps at any time. If a student does not have their binder or workbook and/or it is incomplete on the day of a binder check there is no make-up. Students who don't physically have their binder or notebook on that day will receive a 0.
Tests and quizzes are standards based and are directly related to what we study in class. I choose relevant and appropriate questions from the textbook publisher to construct chapter tests. Chapter tests are comprehensive and cover all the material we have studied sometimes over several weeks. I write short quizzes based on more recently studied material. I try to give a quiz weekly or bi-weekly depending on what we're doing in class. I find that students need to take more, not less tests and quizzes, in order to gain more experience studying for them and to insure that a poor grade on a test or quiz does not skew the entire average in this grading category.
Graded Assignments include all labs, illustrations and maps, papers, and research projects that I individually grade. Research papers and summaries of science articles that students write must be written in their own words. this includes summaries done for extra credit. Copied or plagiarized material is not acceptable.
Class Participation assessment grades are done on a 3-4 week interval. This is the only truly subjective grading category. I grade a student based on their behavior and attitude towards being a productive, motivated, and community oriented individual in my classroom. Students are expected to know my class rules and keep them in their science binder. Attitude and behavior grades are scored as follows: 10 = exceptional behavior and attitude. I wouldn't change anything about this kid! 9 = very good behavior and attitude. This student is on task almost all the time, and responds to my directions without reminders to remain on task. 8 = good behavior and attitude, but could use improvement. This student is a good kid, but may be too chatty (talking socially at inappropriate times), may need regular reminders to get on task or needs to be a better listener so he/she understands directions better. 7 = needs improvement. This student is bordering on unacceptable behavior for his/her age. This student is rarely on task and may be arguing with me inappropriately about their behavior or their responsibilities in class. This student has probably been sent to the R.C. at some point in class. 6 = completely unacceptable behavior and attitude. This student is nearly constantly defiant and does not really belong in a school setting. His/her maturity level is so far below the expectations of his/her age that this student should be in another institutions that better can match his/her needs. This student may be frequently in R.C. or in the V.P.s office.
Students may do extra credit on Fridays. Students earn one Pass Stamp equivalent point for each extra credit assignment they turn in. They may do two extra credit assignments per week. There is no extra credit category in the grade book. I add extra credit points into binder checks or Pass Stamp counts, but if the student has all the points in that quarter's binder checks then I add a point to the most recent quiz or test. Extra credit points added to binder checks have the greatest impact on improving a student's grade since that grading category comprises 40% of their grade. Students must meet my criteria for extra credit. More information can be found at my extra credit link where they will also find resources for finding current science articles appropriate for extra credit on the internet.
My Homework Policy
I try to give enough homework to reinforce the learning we do in class, but not so much as to over burden a student. I want students to be able to complete all their homework from school in a reasonable amount of time and still have time for other important activities including family and fun. I do feel that homework is a necessary part of higher achievement. I do not generally know in advance what the homework for a given day will be. Middle school teaching with large class sizes is too dynamic for that kind of scheduling in my opinion. Nonetheless, I generally have homework 4 days a week. My homework policy is aligned with FUSD Board Policy 6154. The best way to check homework assignments in on the calendar on this website. Homework must be completed on time and is generally due the next day, unless otherwise specified. Students are expected to keep track of all homework and their due dates in their agenda. I credit homework assignments the next day with a stamp credit and then we go over it in class. Students are expected to correct their own homework at that time and ask questions if they need help understanding something.
What if a student is absent?
Homework can be made up upon a student's return to class. It is the student's responsibility to ask me for the homework. The student will be given the same time as the rest of the class to make up work. It is the student's responsibility to show me their make-up work when completed in a timely fashion and ask me politely for any Pass Stamps on that work! Other than legitimate excused absences, I do not accept any late work. However, when I do a binder check in class, if a student has homework or assignments that are incomplete they get no credit for that work whether it was late or not. In other words, if a student completes a paper on time and it is in their binder during a binder check, they will receive two credit points (one for the work being done on time and another for having the paper in the correct place in their binder). But a student who has not made up work even if it would have been late misses two points (one point is lost since the work was not done on time, but another is lost if the work is not done when I see it incomplete during a binder check). The best way to keep up with homework if a student is absent is to check the calendar and the Table of Contents to see if work can be done at home before coming back to class (students will still be given make up time even if they can do the work at home). The Table of Contents has papers that can be downloaded for printing if I hand out an assignment on the day that the student is absent.
For more information on student achievement and classroom expectations please download the first 2 papers in the Table of Contents. Students receive these papers on the first day of class in September and it is their responsibility to ask me questions if they don't understand my grading and behavior policies.
What Do We Study? Syllabus and Teaching Philosophy
Physical Science 8 is a California Standards based course that readies students to pass the District Comprehensive Standards Test given in the Spring, and prepare them for high school science curricula. We cover all the eighth grade topics covered by the test and I try to integrate life and earth science standards from earlier grades where appropriate. Physical Science 8 is a lab and activity based course dependent on the unit studied and my budget. My approach to teaching the physical sciences is both historical and practical while fostering an interest in the wonder of Nature gleaned though scientific discovery. Far too often, physics is taught in a disjointed reductionist way that leaves students confused and with nothing to "hang their hat on". It is one of my goals as a teacher to provide a more exciting perspective on the science that tackles some of the deepest questions humans have tried to answer. In class I introduce the standards along a timeline that becomes a story of humans trying to understand the nature of the Universe from the earliest logic of the Greek Philosophers thorough the development of scientific method by Galileo and the subsequent discoveries of Newton and Einstein. I emphasize the importance of mathematics in scientific method and integrate it with the middle school math standards as much as possible. It is my hope that students will be inspired by the story of human discovery and understand the importance of evaluating scientific claims based on knowledge of the scientific method. My goal is a science literate student leading ultimately to a scientifically literate citizen.
We begin the year learning the Scientific Method Standards, the scale of Nature and mathematic principals for the physical sciences. We continue into fall and winter with the Earth In Space Standards as the nights are growing longer, students have a natural interest in planets, stars and exotic phenomena like black holes and supernovae, and scientific method grew out of Galileo's overturning of Aristotle's speculative geocentric model of the Universe. Astronomy is the natural start to exploring physics for beginners. With an understanding that Galileo's task was to understand the motion of Earth, we continue with the Standards that cover Motion and then onto Newton who quantified those motions in Forces. Including the study of pressure, buoyancy and density and the fascinating stories behind these discoveries this covers the Classical Mechanical Standards. The final Chemistry Standards bring us full circle back to our earlier look at the scale of Nature, from the big to the small and are fresh in the mind as we take the Standards Test in spring. Recently the science department lost five weeks of our post Standards Test curricula time to mandatory district wide sexual education. If time permits I include a unit on Energy (curiously not part of the Standards other than in a peripheral way), thermodynamics and the stories of Faraday, Maxwell and Einstein. I used to also have time to introduce the topic of world energy use and climate change. Both critical topics that should be included in any science course today where appropriate.
It is my hope and wish that all students will have the best possible learning experience in my class!