Dear Middle School Family,
We're in the home stretch now! This week, we'll be finishing up our last official Communications project of the school year. The students spent last week identifying and breaking down an argument they want to make. We learned about Aristotle's Rhetorical Triangle, and did some research to bolster their credibility and strengthen their arguments.
This week, we'll be working in small groups to help each other refine our essays into speeches. More importantly, students will help each other make their arguments more convincing. We are also going to watch a couple of videos on the "Art of Persuasion" and the "Dilution Effect."
Throughout the week, students will be refining a final short speech that they will present in class on Friday. It's going to be a busy, but learningful week!
Next week, Monday, May 23, we will begin State Testing. There will be no other assignments or homework while the students are working on the tests next week. Students will take the ELA (English Language Arts) tests during their Communications/Humanities class with Jon and Jen. Students will take their Math tests (and Science for the 8th graders) during Math/Science with Carrie and Christa.
We will break up each Block into a 40 minute test session, 30 minute recess, and another 40 minute test session. The students will have a 20 minute break between Blocks, as usual, and then will repeat the testing sequence in their Block 2.
Here is a link to the sample test for Students and Families: Link to State Tests Simply click "Sign In" and select the grade level and the particular test you'd like to sample. We've heard reports that the test is particularly short this year.
We hope to finish testing by the end of the week (May 27), but if students need more time, we will give them more time! We have until Friday, June 3 to complete the tests. No sweat.
Honestly, after all the hard work the kids have been putting into their schoolwork, I have a feeling the tests are going to feel like a break!
Opting Out of State Testing
We will be conducting the State Testing in our classrooms. We must adhere to strict guidelines to protect the testing environment. If your student opts out of participating in State Testing, they must still participate in protecting the testing environment. Each Block is 110 minutes long.
State Testing provides us with valuable information about students' progress and skill levels. Students who opt out of the ELA State Testing will be provided with an alternative, offline, writing assessment to complete during the Test Sessions. I will use the State of Oregon's Official Writing Scoring Guide to assess their final essay, but the results will only be shared between me and the students. (I have attached the scoring guide to this email.)
I am still in the process of putting together a reading packet and writing assessment, but will certainly have it ready to go by Monday, May 23.
Don't worry! There's still two and a half weeks of school when we're done with testing. We've got some fun, lighthearted, creative projects in the works to wrap up the school year. More on that later.
Dear Middle School Family,
Before I dive into the updates about our Humanities and Communications work, I wanted to make sure you all know about the All-School Sing-Along that's happening in the South Field at 2:45pm on Monday, May 2. Small groups of middle school ukulele students have been going into every classroom once a week to practice the songs. We're super excited to reinstate this school tradition. It is finally starting to feel like things are returning to normal.
This week we finished our final episode of the Ridgeline World News. I'm in the process of making some small fixes, and still need to record a couple of students who were out sick. Hopefully, by the end of the week, I'll have it all wrapped up and will send out the 'Unlisted' YouTube link to all three episodes.
The students did a great job putting these shows together, and took their role as reporters very seriously. We're going to put their skills to use one last time this school year with a production of the Ridgeline World (Good) News.
Students are combing the internet for (good) news stories from around the globe to tickle and delight us. The production schedule for this bonus episode is going to be shorter, as we won't need to do the extensive research we have for prior news stories. It's been a delightful shift in mood as the unbelievable news students are finding inspires laughter instead of sorrow.
For the rest of this term (Term 5 ends April 29), we will continue to focus primarily on this final (good) news story, along with the students' blogs. We put the "Article of the Week" assignment on hold the week of April 11, so students could focus their energy on their World News assignment. We'll pick the Communications work back up on May 2, as we start Term 6 (the last term of the year!).
For the first two weeks of May, we'll let the World News go for this year, and bring the focus back onto academic writing skills. Students will watch a short video and read and annotate one or two short articles to provide multiple perspectives on a particular topic. We'll help the students craft a short explanation of each of these perspectives. The students will then add their own voices to the conversation in a final short essay.
We'll run through this process twice. Then, probably starting the week of May 16, but possibly as late as May 23, we'll begin the State ELA testing. The State test is apparently short this year, so it shouldn't take us much time. While we're taking the tests, this will be the only school work the students are responsible for.
I've gotten permission from the students to share the list of links to their Weekly Blogs, in case you're interested. It's a mixed bag, for sure, and some students have really been inspired by the creative freedom of this assignment and really ran with it. Here's a link to the table they're listed in.
The school year is winding down fast, but there's still a lot going on! Please don't hesitate to reach out to us if we can support you and your student in any way.
Jon and Jen
Dear Middle School Family,
Ah, the beauty of routine. We're almost there, folks.
Ridgeline World News
Last week, we started back into our work building a Ridgeline World News Program for April. The process is broken into incremental steps. I have attached a checklist (that the students were also provided with at the start of the project) to help y'all understand how the assignments build to the final production on April 20.
I'm hoping that we'll be able to produce three more news programs this year, including the one in April. We'll see how it goes. We also have State testing to get through in May, so we'll take it as it comes, and do the best we can.
We are all learning so much about what's going on in the world, and how interconnected we are on this planet. This is a pretty mind-blowing, dynamic project that is hitting all of the bases for our Global Studies curriculum this year. It's exciting to help the kids struggle through the process of finding world news that they think is important for all of us to understand. Their struggle to understand and make sense of these global happenings is life-changing work.
Our kids are acting like responsible Global Citizens. The work they're doing, and the heart they're putting into it is inspiring.
Communications is where the weekly routine is finally dialed in, though. Students are responsible for one Article of the Week Annotation and Response, one Reading Log, and one Blog Post.
Article of the Week
With the Article of the Week, we're teaching the students to actively engage with a news article each week, and formulate an argument about an idea that is being asserted in the article. First, I have a carefully crafted process for the students to follow to annotate the article, directly on the article, to make sense of the assertion they choose to focus on. Once they're done with their annotation, we conference with each student, one on one, to help them talk through and formulate their argument.
After they've gotten approval to roll forward, the students write a two paragraph "They Say/I Say" argument, focusing on just explaining a single idea. This is the hard part. The "They Say" paragraph can only focus on a single assertion, and the students have to explain the argument the article makes to support their assertion.
In the "I Say" paragraph, the students make a single assertion in response to the article's assertion, and explain their assertion. This is not an essay. This is just a paragraph, one complex idea explained clearly.
This is good, hard, work. We also coach the kids, one on one, with their Article of the Week Responses.
The Blogs are a fun opportunity for the kids to just... run with it. We're trying to encourage the students to think of themselves as "Content Creators" with this assignment. "Create these Blog posts as if you really want your blog to take off and be read by everyone in the world!"
We're still getting mixed results with this one. Some of the blogs are super engaging and interesting and fun. With videos and pictures! Some are just a list of what the student had for breakfast this week. Ask your kid to show you their blog. Encourage them to get excited about it! If they're stuck in a dead-end topic, help them identify a topic or activity they're genuinely excited about.
It doesn't have to be just words! They can share videos of them doing what they love, or talking about what they love, or telling funny stories. This should be a fun assignment, is what I'm trying to say. Please encourage your kid to make it fun for them.
And, yes, they can change their mind about what their blog is about each week.
Have a great week, folks. We're happy to be back at school with our wonderful humans. This is joyful work we're doing.
Jon and Jen
Dear Middle School Family,
I'd like to start by once again thanking Sarah for stepping up to fill in for Maizzy for 6 weeks while we found a full-time assistant for the rest of the school year. Sarah fit so naturally into our community, it felt like she'd been here all along. Thank you, Sarah!
And, Welcome, Jen! Jen Hornsby is also a natural in the middle school community. We're long-time friends and colleagues. We're going to have a lot of fun between now and June! We're so grateful to have you on this adventure with us.
It's a testament to the positive nature, the LOVE that happens here at Ridgeline, that when the middle school was in need, both a current Ridgeline parent, and a former Ridgeline parent (and Board President!) stepped up to make sure we're able to stay true to our roots.
This is life-changing work we're doing. I'm grateful for Sarah's and Jen's investment in our community.
Lots of Writing Going On!
We had to change gears a little from the independent writing projects we started back in January. We needed a set-up that allowed for independence and exploration, as well as an opportunity for me to work one-on-one with each student to improve their writing skills. I think we've finally struck a balance.
Each of the students has created a blog, or is the co-author on a blog, and is responsible for 2 edited posts each week. Some folks are writing fiction; a few students are even using the blog format to add to their long story chapter by chapter. Others are writing about sports, or cooking, or conspiracy theories...
Ask your kid to share their blog with you! They're all pretty interesting and fun.
We are using edublogs.org as our blogging platform, as they are designed specifically for students to use to help protect their privacy online.
The other writing assignment the students are working on is the Article of the Week. Each week, I give the students a current news article to read and respond to. There is a really great book about academic writing that's being used in universities across the country, called, They Say/I Say, by Cathy Birkenstein, Gerald Graff, and Russel K. Durst. I've dramatically simplified the content for middle school, but the process holds true to the book's intention of academic writing as a "discussion," of sorts with what we read.
Students start by crafting a paragraph that explains an assertion being made in the news article. Then they write a single "I Say" paragraph that responds to the "They Say" paragraph with an assertion of their own.
The hardest part of this process is sticking to a single assertion, and using the paragraph to only explain their assertion. We're not trying to write entire essays. Yet. Right now, we're working on crafting powerful paragraphs.
When the students complete their assignment, they sign up on the board to conference with me one on one about their writing. Using Juno Docs, I'm able to annotate and make suggestions directly on each draft as I'm talking with each student, so they can go back and make edits, if they so choose. Some students come back several times, trying to hone their paragraphs to perfection.
Oregon Black History Projects
One of the hard lessons we've learned doing research for our Oregon Black History Projects is there isn't much record of Black History in Oregon. There are exclusionary laws, overt racism, and tales of displaced Black communities, but the human stories of the Black people who lived here have gone largely unrecorded, and unacknowledged, until very recently.
Our original vision to create a series of short documentary films is simply impossible with some of these stories, because we can't find enough visual materials to tell the stories well.
So, we're shifting gears a bit. A few of the video projects will still move forward, but we've diversified our options to include podcasts, slideshows, posters, and other forms of media.
We've learned so much in the last few weeks, and the students are deeply committed to completing these projects. My current plan is to organize all of the content we generate into a website that gives voice to the stories we did find, and makes sense of Oregon's Black History for a student audience. There's clearly a reason PSU's Dr. Walidah Imarisha coined it "Oregon's Hidden History."
We are doing good work, folks. Thanks so much for sharing your amazing kids with us.
Jon and Jen
Dear Middle School Family,
We've extended the Final Production date for the Ridgeline World News to Monday, January 31. The dress rehearsals went really well. The kids were feeling so good about their performances that they asked if they could use the dress rehearsal, instead, if they didn't do as well for the Final Production. In short: I know they can do better. (So do they.)
I'm so grateful for their dedication to sharing their best work. I know many of them went home and revised their scripts this weekend. Real work feels... Real. If we're going to put ourselves out there, even to our families as a real audience, it means a lot more than just turning stuff in for a grade.
The assignments, if you look closely, are set up to help each student do the work they need to do to help them be successful with the Final Production. These aren't just hoops to jump through. Each step is carefully crafted to help the students learn how to tell the story they chose.
Last week, a parent asked me what kind of feedback their student was getting about the work they'd done. The answer is, the students are getting feedback from the teaching staff (if the students do the work) every step of the way. We conference one-on-one with students on each step of the process. Students engage in small-group editing sessions, with a clear, guided process for how to helpfully respond to each other's work beyond arguments about commas.
Black History Month
Starting this week, our Ridgeline World News teams will take on a special Feature Production about Oregon Black History. It's going to be a rough week, emotionally, for all of us. Oregon's history is based on creating a "White Utopia" in the "wild west" on Native American land.
Black Lives Matter. Oregon's story is possibly the best explanation of this important Historical Movement. We're going to learn why. We're going to share it with you.
I'm still without a permanent assistant, so I'm putting my grand dreams on hold for a while with the writing projects. For now, we're going to be doing more manageable writing assignments, so I can meaningfully engage with each student individually.
Article of the Week
For the next few weeks, the students will have two Article of the Week (AOW) assignments to respond to in a very prescripted way. Eighth graders will be familiar with the format. Once they get the hang of what I'm after, I will use this process to take them to the next step of crafting a two paragraph essay: Call and Response.
If you're interested in the inner workings of what I'm doing with this, please buy a copy of "They Say/I Say" by Graff and Birkenstein. I'm doing a super basic version of this important interpretation of academic writing:
"Here's what I heard you assert, and your explanation of your assertion."
"Here's my assertion in response to your assertion, and my explanation of my assertion."
They must point to evidence from the text to explain their assertions.
This is going to be hard, important skillbuilding that will make them successful in high school and college.
BIG (Blog Interest Group) Writing Projects
We're also going to get fun with writing and art. Students will start BIG (Blog Interest Groups) writing projects this week. We're going to use a super safe online Blogging tool, called edublog.
We're going to come up with a bunch of collaborative opportunities, and ultimately students will decide whether they want to craft a novel, chapter by chapter, or share art progress with photos and explanations of their process, or share song reviews, or share how-to demonstrations of frisbee tricks... They're going to be responsible for two 200+ word blog posts each week.
I'm doing my best, folks, to make ComHumanications feel like an important content-creation team. (If that's not obvious.) I'm doing my best to make what they create, and the skills they're learning to create informed content, feel valuable. Not just for them, but for all of us.
It feels like it's working...
Dear Middle School Family,
First off, I just want to brag about how fantastic our classroom is feeling with the new ambient lighting and (very little) furniture arrangement. I hope your kids are as excited about the changes as we are! We'll be in touch soon about plants and other flourishes as the dust settles.
I wanted to take a little time this week to walk you through our Humanities Projects. This year, our focus for Humanities is Global Studies. We will be producing a television news program for the rest of the year.
Ridgeline World News!
Last week we started digging into the research and new story writing for Episode 2 of our Ridgeline World News Program. Currently, we're producing the Ridgeline News on about a 4 week cycle.
We have broken the world into 7 regions, including pretty much everywhere on earth where humans are living, except for the United States: Africa, East Asia, Southeast Asia and the Pacific (including Australia and New Zealand), the Middle East, Western and Central Europe, Eastern Europe and Russia, and Latin America.
Regional News Teams
Each Regional News Team is made up of 5 or 6 student reporters.
Find the 8 Most Important Current Events in Your Region
We start each cycle with each reporter combing through the current events in their region, and looking for the top 8 news stories from their entire region. This is a skimming assignment, more or less (a very important skill). They look through local and international news websites for hot headlines, and do a quick check to make sure that A) there's enough information in the article to develop into a story, and B) that it's a current event, and not a feature or opinion article.
The teachers check in with each student to verify that they have 8 newsworthy articles, and do some coaching to help them identify what is truly newsworthy. The students are already getting better at finding 8 stories for their first check in.
What I really like about this first assignment is although the students aren't reading every article all the way through, they're being exposed to WAY more than 8 news events in their region. They're also noticing trends and on-going news events from show to show. Their general knowledge about their region of the world is growing bit by bit in a very natural way.
Top 3 Story Pitches
Once the students have found their top 8 stories, they do a deeper reading of each article and decide which 3 news events are the most important for us to know about.
They write a short, no more than 3 sentence summary of each article, and another couple of sentences explaining why the event is important in the context of the region where it happened, and what its relevance, or implications, are for our Ridgeline community (and maybe even the world).
This assignment is also checked in individually by the teaching team with each student to help them decide which stories are the most important, and to help them sell their importance to their Regional News Team for the next step.
Editorial Pitch Session
We set a firm deadline for the students' pitches to be completed. The day of the deadline, the Student Reporters get together with their Regional News Teams. I've been pretty loose here, and have allowed students who have not completed the "3 Pitches" assignment to pitch some stories, anyway. I'm going to get stricter as we progress, and students are more familiar with the overall process. (This is just our second production.)
The Regional News Team shares the stories they've found, discuss them, and come to consensus on which news events are most important to share. One story is assigned to each student. Now the real work begins.
None of us are experts on these countries, governments, cultures, places... In order to understand these news articles, we need to learn more about the places and people where they are happening. Each student does a deep reading of the main source article they're using to create their news story. As they read, and re-read, the entire article, they highlight and underline things on the article they don't really understand. They write questions directly on the article to help guide their research.
What they're after is: 1. What is the story I want to tell? and 2. What information am I missing that I need to learn in order to share the story?
I go through every student's annotated article with them, one on one, to help them find their story and ask the right questions for their research. They still want to go too far and broad (because they realize they know so little). I help them focus their research into what they need to know to tell just this story.
So much of the big-picture everything-they-want-to-know is explained slowly over time, in a more immersive way, as they do research into more specific details. And as they do story after story about their Region.
Once they have a better understanding of the whole story, they write a short news script, no more than 500 words. I have created a template to help guide the way they craft their story, starting with a hook and an explanation of the news event. They wrap up their news story by explaining some of the background and the broader significance of the event.
I ask that the students include 3-5 pictures (projected on the screen behind them) to help tell their story. They could be maps or pictures of the people and events featured in the story.
Final Editorial Meeting/Dress Rehearsal
After everyone has completed their script, we have a final Editorial meeting where the students go over each other's scripts. They help each other polish things up, and make the writing flow more smoothly. They also ask clarifying questions. This may be the most important part, having others who haven't done the research about the article read the script and make sure there's enough explanation for the audience to understand the story.
Once they've polished up the stories, they do several run-throughs with their whole team, working out the timing of moving in and out of the news desk.
Ridgeline World News Production
On Production Day, we give them a half hour to run through their show again, and get all their pieces in place. Meanwhile, I set up the light boxes and the video camera for the show. The kids perform the show live, and we record video of the show that we post on a closed YouTube channel.
For the first production, the students only watched their own cohort's performance, so we could talk about what kinds of things we could do differently next time. With the next production, the students will just watch their own cohort's performance live, and they'll watch the other cohort's production on video.
So, there you have it. Ridgeline World News is a very fun and rewarding way to develop deep reading and research skills. They're also doing a wide variety of writing and editing activities. The final performance gives them a concrete goal to work towards, and is "real" enough to encourage them to do their best work.
We are going to take a break from "World News" for Black History Month in February. In February, the students will produce a special News Program featuring stories about Black History in Oregon. The process will be very similar.
We will be producing probably 5 more episodes of the Ridgeline World News over the course of the school year. As the students become more familiar with the process and how it builds to the final production, the whole process is going to feel a lot easier to manage. The repetition of the process is also going to help them see their own growth as we go.
Whew! Thanks for reading this long explanation of our Humanities Projects. Next time, I'll talk about the process for our Writing Projects. It shouldn't require quite so many words, ironically. =)
Jon and Sarah
Dear Middle School Family,
As we wind down into Winter Break, I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge the good work we've all done to get us here, a third of the way through the school year. I've joked with many of you that coming back to school in person has been a lot like calling the kids back into the village from the wild woods. After those many months in the wild, fending, in many ways, for ourselves, building our social muscles back up has been quite a chore for all of us.
We've made a lot of progress. And we still have a ways to go to make it back to 'normal,' whatever that is.
Something that's hard to remember is that the beginning of the school year is always a process of becoming the Middle School community. We're all getting to know one another; we're establishing routines; we're finding our rhythm. We are quite literally creating our common culture together.
The biggest difference this year is it's "all of us" who are new to in-person middle school, not just the 7th graders.
The 'common culture' we're creating is full of laughter, kindness, and learning. It's truly been a joy getting to know these amazing humans this Fall. It's always fun coming back from Winter Break, because we all know, more or less, what to expect. We have a lot to look forward to!
Please enjoy your time together over break. Stay warm, and take good care of each other.
Jon and Maizzy
Dear Middle School Family,
I'm not gonna lie: these next few weeks are going to feel a little disjointed, schoolwork-wise. We're doing our best to extend the previous 5 days into the 2-day week, so it feels like there's closure before each long weekend.
If your child is behind on any assignments, this week would be a good time to look at Jupiter Ed and help them prioritize and catch up on missing assignments.
This week Monday and Tuesday, we'll wrap up our World News article research, and write pitches for our News Teams. When we get back on November 15, we'll have an editorial pitch session, where each News Team will decide which (one story each) they will research and share on the Ridgeline World News YouTube Channel. (100% internal, no outside access... for now...)
If your student doesn't finish their 3 pitches by Tuesday, they'll have plenty of time to work on them at home this long weekend, so they can actively participate in the next exciting phase of producing a World News Show: decide what News in your region matters.
Talk about power! And responsibility.
Which leads me to the next important thing we're working on: Media Literacy.
We're taking Media down to its roots: two people trying to resolve an interaction. We're growing this exploration through the evolution of human communication from gestures to speech to literacy to mass media... We've already started talking about how our personal human existence (life experience, bias, perspective, emotional state, knowledge, ignorance, beliefs, disbeliefs...) shapes and interprets how we express ourselves, and receive information.
Simply put, we're exploring why it's so hard to feel heard and understood. And why it's hard to hear and understand.
We're examining the stories and intentions behind the messages we receive in the media and how and why they're encoded for our consumption. We're also going to explore how our own life experience prepares us to decode the messages we receive. Perhaps most importantly, we're going to work to become more mindful of how the messages we create, even in our day to day conversations, carry a burden of care and responsibility.
Jon and Maizzy
Dear Middle School Family,
This Friday, October 22, marks the end of the first term of middle school! We have broken the school year up into six terms in order to help the students master the "Grades Game." All makeup work for the term must be turned in by the last day of the term. We won't accept work from the previous term once we start each new term.
The good news is that we start the gradebook fresh with each new term, so students have the opportunity to start over and give it another go. Please encourage your student to apply what they've learned about the "Grades Game" this term, and start strong in Term 2.
This week, I'd like to tell you a little bit about our Humanities program for the 2021-22 school year. We teach Humanities in an A/B year fashion in order to meet the Oregon State Standards for 7th and 8th grade social studies. This year, we are focusing on Global Studies. Next year we will focus on US History and Government. We have two big projects this year that will provide the main content of both our Humanities and Communications studies: the World News Project, and Global Scholars.
World News Project
Last week, we divided the world into 7 regions, and assigned students to small news teams that will be covering the news for each region. To kick things off, students began independent research into the state of affairs in countries in their region. Each student looked into the Social, Economic, Environmental, and Governmental of two countries, and will be presenting their findings to their news team.
Next week, each student will begin exploring current events in one country in their region, and coming up with a list of 5 news stories they think are important to share with the class. They will meet with their news team to pitch the stories they found, and come to consensus about which stories they need to include in the first official episode of their televised news show.
Once each student has their news assignment, they will find multiple tellings of the news story (as best they can), and do some research to demystify the historical or social context necessary to make the story relevant to their inexperienced audience. They will each write a 1-2 minute script, and we will set up a news desk, lights, camera, and student news teams will produce a World News Show!
We'll be uploading the videos to a private YouTube channel, and each cohort will watch the other cohort's news program on video (as well as witness the live production in their own cohort). We'll be producing a series of episodes over the course of the school year as the centerpiece of our Global Studies curriculum this year.
Once again, this year we are participating in the Global Scholars program that is sponsored by the Michael Bloomberg Foundation in New York. We are partnered in a "Collaboration" with students from Poland, Spain, Argentina, India, Taiwan, and Florida.
This year's topic is "Food Security." We'll be learning about where our food comes from, and the systems that provide it for us. We'll also learn about food systems in the cities in our Collaboration, and engage in dialogue with our Collaboration members about the cultural and human aspects of this very fundamental human need.
You can learn more about the Global Scholars program here: https://www.globalcities.org/
For our Unit 1 Project, we need to produce a video introducing Eugene, Oregon to our Collaboration. To that end, we will go on a walking field trip next Friday, October 29, to take photos and videos of various "identity aspects" of Eugene, to compile into a video to share with our global peers.
We need 4 volunteers to join us on our exploration on Friday, October 29. We'll leave school at 10am, and will be back at Ridgeline at 1:00pm, in time for regular dismissal. One group will be walking from Ridgeline to Downtown Eugene, and the other will be walking to the University of Oregon (and back, of course).
If you would like to join us, please contact Cynthia Friedman in the office (541-681-9662), or email@example.com, to verify that you have met all the volunteer requirements. If you're clear, please send me an email ASAP!
Jon and Maizzy
Dear Middle School Family,
In a few minutes, you're going to receive another email from Jupiter Ed, our online grading system. (If you don't receive the second email, please let me know!) The email will provide you with a link to your student's account, so you can monitor their progress in school at home. All of the instructions and materials for each assignment are recorded in Jupiter Ed, as well as their grades for each assignment.
You can check in at any time. You can even set Jupiter Ed up to email or text you when your student is missing assignments.
Jupiter Ed and grades, in general, are useful mainly to give us a quick snapshot of how the students are doing overall with their schoolwork. Learning to play the grades game in middle school is an important step for our students who are leaving Ridgeline to enter mainstream high schools.
For Communications and Humanities, we are going to continue to use the same grading system we adopted during online teaching. Instead of the traditional letter grades, we will use Mastery (80% or above), Proficient (60% or above), or Needs Improvement (Below 60%). (The percentages are displayed in Jupiter Ed, though, so if folks want to consider what their traditional grades would be, an A is 90% and above, a B is 80-89%, etc.)
Grading Individual Assignments
There are three types of assignments that are weighed differently, based on the time and effort required for the assignment. Projects are worth 20 points, Edited assignments are worth 10 points, and drafts, reflections, and short assignments are worth 5 points.
Each assignment, however, is graded with a plus (5 points), check (4 points), or a minus (3 points). A plus means it's thoughtfully and carefully completed. A check means the assignment was completed, it's mostly edited, and some thought and care went into it. A minus means the student did something, but it is either incomplete, needs editing, or simply needs more effort.
If a student receives a plus or a check, they can't make up the assignment. If the student earns a minus for an assignment, we give them feedback on how they can improve the assignment to earn a check or a plus. Students are encouraged to improve their assignments if they have time after they finish their other school work.
Students are allowed to make up Missing assignments and assignments that have earned a minus up to Friday the following week. (So, if I am missing an assignment from Wednesday, the 14th, I have until Friday the 23rd to make up the assignment.) We have found that it's better for students to stay in the present and work on their current assignments with the rest of the class, rather than get stuck in the past and continue to fall behind.
To help students build good work habits, we've divided the school year into 6 terms. The first term ends October 22. On October 24, we start Term 2, and will no longer accept work from the previous term. We reset the gradebook, and start over, clean slate! The grades are really meant to help students build the work habits they need to earn good grades when they go to high school. It really is a matter of doing the work. And turning it in!
If at any time you have questions about Jupiter Ed, or your student's progress, please send me an email and let's set up a meeting. Our partnership is essential to your student's success. They need to know that we are all on their team and here to support them.
Thanks for sharing your kids with us. We're in this together!
Jon and Maizzy