In honor of the Buckeye’s victory over the Bearcats, I have put together a freebie that I think will come in handy in the next few weeks. I know the end of the first quarter is right around the corner – just a few weeks away, can you believe it?!
I did not expect my middle school students to understand the calculation of GPAs, semester grades, or the like. However, once I moved up to high school, though, I was surprised that even my upper classmen didn’t really understand how those things were determined. The high honors kids figured it out, of course, but they weren’t the ones who needed the help. I found that my low-performing students would get so discouraged at the end of the first quarter if they made poor grades that they would throw away the entire second quarter because they didn’t understand that things were still salvageable. I also encountered students who did quite well first quarter, but honestly thought they didn’t have to do any more work the rest of the semester because they already had their “A” (or “B” or whatever). SMH, I know, but they didn’t know any better. That’s when I decided it was my duty to wise them up.
This freebie helps you take students through the process of using 2 separate quarter grades and a semester exam grade to create a semester grade that will appear on a “permanent” record: the report card. It’s important you know how your district calculates semester grades – what percentage of the semester grade is the exam? Once you figure that out, make a spreadsheet that shows students the various combinations of quarter and exam grades to create a final semester grade. Many districts have this as a part of the district’s student handbook. You will be AMAZED at the difference in attitude your students show when they realize their entire year isn’t completely shot (or that they can’t sit back and do nothing for the next 9 weeks…). They’ll thank you, too, even if they’re doing well in your class, because they can use this in their other courses that might not be going so well.
This is what I have noticed with my students:
Highly focused, motivated, overachievers like this tool when they get a “B” instead of an “A” that first quarter because it shows them they can still earn an “A” for the semester. This calms them down and keeps those helicopter parents off your back.
Average students (B/C) tend to be hit or miss with this – sometimes it really motivates them to push for that extra mile. Other times they’re like, “Sweet. I only have to get a ___ and then I’ll have my C.” So it kinda depends.
Struggling students who have a bad spell in the middle of the quarter or miss a major due date or something and end up with a “C” or “D” and it really rattles them and you can tell they’re going to just give up – these are the bread-and-butter kids. They love that they can hop back on board and turn everything around. I get the best responses from these kids (even if they’re not performing this way in my class, they might be in someone else’s).
“F” students don’t tend to benefit as much from this (unfortunately). Although, it can at least help some of them decide to do enough to at least pass the second quarter and the exam. There are other, better interventions for these students.
I have also found that teaching students how to calculate their GPA yields similar results. This, however, does actually work well with those “F” students because it helps them see the damage they are doing if they are “taking some time off” like – “oh, freshman year doesn’t matter” or “oh, I’m already a senior – I already got into ___ school…” Of course, for this, you have to know how your district/state calculates (weights) courses for GPA purposes. But it’s not a bad idea to show kids how to calculate their unweighted GPAs, since that’s how the vast majority of colleges and universities decide admission. It also pushes home the importance of doing your best in every class rather than taking the “Honors” or “AP” courses but doing just “okay” and relying on weighting to keep a good GPA.
Kids are naturally competitive. If you show them how to track their performance, they’ll be motivated to do better. It also shows them you really care about them, because 99% of the time, you’ll be the only teacher/adult they know who is taking time to show them how this stuff works. It can make a huge difference.
These activities can help you drive home to students the importance of being successful in high school. I used to talk about colleges with my students, but of course there were lots who didn’t seem to care, because they’d decided college wasn’t for them. It was hard for me to hear that, since education was so important to me (as a teacher – obviously). I realized, though, that while college may not be the motivator for every kid, every student does have a button. I started broadening my horizons to talk about community colleges, AA programs (Associate Degrees, not substance abuse), technical education, and other reasons that high school grades affect the future. I was fond of saying that “The poor choices you make now are closing doors you don’t even know are there.” I would remind them that just because they don’t want to go to college (or any other post-secondary program) now doesn’t mean they won’t want to later in life. I also would stress that “College may not be for everyone, but graduation is.” There is no good argument against graduating from high school. Unfortunately, for many students, this realization comes too late. So if you start working with your students and helping them manage their grades and their education early in high school, it will really pay off. Can you “save” them all? Of course not – and I’m not going to lie and say you can. But you can help a lot of them – and for the ones you don’t “save,” you’ll at least know that you made the effort; you extended the branch.
If you decide this is right for you and your students, it’s imperative that you find out your district’s formula for calculating semester grades. A standard, traditional calculation is 37.5% weight to quarter 1 grade, 37.5% weight to quarter 2 grade, and 25% weight to the exam. Some districts also do a 40% – 40% – 20% split. This activity won’t be useful unless you know how your district does it. I included a table that shows students the different grade combinations and it’s based on the 25% exam grade weight. It is from my district (Hillsborough County Public Schools – FL). I’ve also included a chart based on a 25% exam weight that does NOT follow the F=50% rule that HCPS uses. And I’ve included a chart based on a 20% exam grade weight, but I’m not sure how accurate that will be when compared with another district’s – again, because it’s purely mathematical; it doesn’t have any rules about minimum values, etc. Finally, I included a blank chart so you can fill in your district’s grades once you figure them out if they don’t match the two charts I included. Be sure when you are checking on your district policies, to note any specific rules, like auto-F for a semester grade if the exam grade is an F-below 50 (an HCPS rule). Or some districts have a 2/3 rule that must be met. Just make sure you have all the information to give your students – because they will ask.
I hope you find this resource useful! Have a great week…and go Buckeyes! We take on Maryland this Saturday!