I feel bad publishing this – I should wait until I can edit it. But a lot of things don’t get posted because I want to wait until I’ve solved them or polished the question, and neither happens, and then I’m not putting anything out there. So here goes:

I’m feeling like a rookie (ok don’t laugh; I know to many of you, 3rd year is still a rookie). Today in Algebra 2 we were doing a transformation exercise, really a warmup/preview, just noticing how the table has to change for the graph to move. I’m looking at the posters students made and seeing a range from no graph-table correspondence on one end, to several complete and correct transformations on the other. And I’m giving scores in my gradebook on a 5-10 scale reflecting how well I think each person has got this objective. Only, it’s the worst of both worlds: This was my quick-look exit ticket so I’m not giving any comments on the posters themselves. I’m just using it to decide whether to keep working on this tomorrow. So the students aren’t getting individualized feedback. But I want to recognize mastery of skills along the way to major problem solving, so I’m keeping a near-daily grade on mastery of each skill we cover. So grades are going in the gradebook for something the students haven’t gotten detailed feedback on.

This is pulling at a fundamental problem in the advanced algebra course design, one that Michael and others asked about this summer and to which I said “We’ll work it out.” Well, we haven’t worked it out.
The problem is, there are so many skills to learn in service of applying them to bigger problems, that I need, and they need, a way to keep track of which skills they’ve got and which they don’t. So I want to track that without grading on it, and I haven’t found a clean way to do that. Worse, I don’t yet have the big problems organized in a way that lets students see the application of the skills without turning the big problems into rote problems.

A related issue I didn’t consider before is, a lot of people at school need information (and for good reasons) about how a given student is doing right now. (It reminds me of calculus). If I have N standards that are binary (proficient/not yet), how many should a student have mastered 1 week into the term? 2? 7? What about a student coming from behind who is learning a ton but doesn’t get to the stage of being able to synthesize several techniques into a solution? Who is on track to mastering what, and how do I know, and who needs extra attention? Grading skills seems a LOT easier – we do one every couple days, and you keep up or you don’t. So I started grading exit tickets on skills each day or two.

This is whiny — sorry. But I’m very aware of how the big-picture assessment plan we came up with this summer offers no direction at all in keeping track of how people are doing day-by-day. In college they won’t get day-by-day tracking, but I need day-by-day tracking to help me figure out who’s ready for college and who isn’t, so I can try to do something about that.