Archives for the month of: September, 2011

This post is about the nitty gritty of what radio buttons to set to what settings on what screen to do Standards-Based Grading (SBG) with JupiterGrades. If you’re not trying to use JupiterGrades in this way, this has little to offer you.

If you are picking software for SBG from scratch I recommend ActiveGrade. I’m very happy with JupiterGrades but ActiveGrade is designed specifically for SBG and has a lot more flexibility for SBG. I’m using JupiterGrades because (a) it’s a very good program in my experience and (b) my school is using it.

First some notes:

  1. JupiterGrades does offer a Standards Based Grading setting for classes, which you can read about in their help files. I was planning to try that this year, but it must be set up by an administrator. This is probably a good thing: you want teachers and administrators all to agree on what the standards are going to be for a given course. But in my case I’m the only one teaching my courses and my administrator is busy. She tried to set the program to let me do it, by giving me “Y” permission, whatever that is, but when I tried again, the program said I also needed “S0″ permission, so I gave up. Instead I’m just using JupiterGrades normal grade setup screen to get what I want. For better or worse, if you teach with JupiterGrades, the software will let you do what’s described below without any centralized coordination about standards.
  2. I wrote about this last year. If you’re wondering what SBG is, that post has some links to great writers on the subject, so if you’re new to SBG, start there. Then come back to this post to get into details about setup screens and so forth.

Ok here goes:

1. Set up the grading options.

On the Setup>Grading Options screen, do this (click any image for a larger version):
Grading Options Screen


  • Everything on the left is pretty normal.
  • Under “Special Marks”, you translate what your “rubric grades” mean in terms of percentages. I’ve stopped giving zeros, so my map is 4=100%, 3=80%, 2=60%, 1=50%, and 0 (blank)=40%. So if I give a “3″ on a standard, that student has an 80 for that standard. But I’m always messing around with that. In any case, this is where you set those.
  • I don’t use categories because standards are the only thing I grade. If you want X% to be standards, Y% to be something else, you’d use categories to set that up.
  • You’ll see I have the weightings as 80% of the total grade is based on 1st quarter and 20% on the exam. Here’s why. Students final grades are actually based 80% on whatever their average is across all standards at the end of 4th term and 20% on their final & portfolios. But if I put that in now, then their grades during first term won’t show up. So when each new term starts, this changes. See “New Term”, below.

2. Put your standards in the “Assign” tab.

Here’s an example:
Assignments Tab


  • Use “Input as: Grades” instead of Percent so the program will translate your 3′s and 4′s into 80%’s and 100%’s (or whatever you chose on the grading options setup screen above). If you use “Percent”, then when you give a cherub a 4, it will go in as 4%.
  • I didn’t show it in the screenshot, but in the Description box, you can put a few sentences describing the standard. Then students can see the description as well as the title when they look at your class in JupiterGrades.
  • Last year I put in two lines for each standard, and kept students’ best-ever scores as well as their most-recent scores. I’m not doing that this year: too many students had their best score in November and awful scores in May and ended up with a grade that was the average. I don’t think those students’ grades reflected their level of proficiency. So this year it’s most-recent only (with lots of chances to improve if your most-recent was low).

Using it day to day.

Imagine I give a quiz on 9/27. On that quiz I might have 2-3 questions, one of which assesses the standard “Explain and use the product rule.” In the screenshot above I have entered grades for each student. I use the comment field to say when the standard was last assessed and how. So the screenshot also shows that a few students got reassessed after 9/27, by showing their proficiency (or lack) on that standard on a homework presentation or a re-assessment.

How the grade is computed.

When you click on a particular student’s name, you see the list of all standards entered so far, and the student’s grade on each one. The overall grade at the bottom is just the average of all the standards grades (after they’ve been translated to percents). So this student has been assessed on 2 standards, receiving a 4 (100%) and a 3 (80%). So far her grade is a 90%, an A-:
Grade for one student

When a new term starts.

Each term students pick up right where they left off. If in first term we covered 6 standards, then they each have 6 grades (one for each standard). When second term starts, I want them to start out with those same 6 grades on standards 1-6. Over the course of second term, they’ll have the opportunity to improve their grades on those six, as well as working on new standards.

To do this takes 3 steps:

  1. Start a new gradebook for the new term.
  2. Use the Setup>Import/Export feature of JupiterGrades to export the term 1 assignments and grades from the term 1 gradebook and import them into the term 2 gradebook.
  3. On the Setup>Grading Options page, switch the Grading Period Weight so it’s 80% 2nd term, 20% final.

Repeat for third and fourth terms. By the end of fourth term, students will have their most-up-to-date grades on every standard in your fourth term gradebook. Their grade for the year will be based 80% on their end-of-year standings on all standards, and 20% on their final and portfolio.

At least that’s how I do it. Hope this is helpful.

C-block, precalc, planning to discuss conditional statements. The anticipatory question: “Complete the sentence any way you want: “If _________, then __________.” Expecting a mix of banality and hilarity from my seniors. This is what I get:

“If you work hard, you’ll see results.”
“If I do well in school, I can achieve my dreams.”
“If I persevere, I can overcome any obstacle.”

And half a dozen more in the same vein.

I don’t know what’s happening at my previously-underpeforming turnaround school but whatever it is, I want more.

After all my talk about Algebra 2, it has worked out that this year I’m teaching precalculus instead. So I’m trying a hybrid of my favorite models: IBL, based on the Moore method; the Math Circle; and, following Lockhart, the art class at my school.

I have 80 minutes a day. I put up definitions and problems, which are often theorems to prove. Students work on the ones that interest them, or if none appeal, they can try to tackle one of the classic puzzles I have in a binder in the corner. We start each day with presentations. (Once a student has presented a solution that meets with class approval, they can submit it for publication in the class journal.) Then I might talk for a few minutes on problem-solving strategies, or values like persistence, or just give them the next few problems. Then work time for 30 minutes or so. I wander around to help or encourage. Students at a dead end can recharge with a Rubik’s cube or soma blocks. We end with a short reflection on where people are and how they’re feeling.

So, Friday – day 2. Everyone’s working. A few are still a little freaked out, but everyone is working productively on one problem or another. The first presentations were all over the map, but they were an occasion to talk about taking time to get good at presenting, which opened up a conversation about what makes a presentation good. Still, twenty percent of the students are ready to draft their first articles. And it’s only day 2! A student calls me over. I see he is working on Problem 1. He looks up at me and says, “I had a breakthrough.”

I know just how he feels.


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