This was my dilemma: How do I include my rocket project in standards-based grading?
For background, the rocket project is my favorite project of the year. Students build and test paper rockets. Here's a video from last year's class blog. I loved it. They built multiple rockets and had three different launches. In the end their grade was based on three things:
- How high their rocket went
- How straight the flight was
- Their ability to describe and calculate the forces acting on their rocket
So in the end I only had to get rid of options 1 and 2 for the grade. It seems simple now but this caused me a lot of angst. I think this worked out for the best too. In the past so many kids failed just because they didn't complete their rocket or their car. If they really don't want to make a rocket, they can come up with an alternate assignment. I have a number of students who didn't complete the car and now are just coming after school to figure out the speed.
The biggest surprise for me was that I had the same number of students complete the car as before when it was, "Do the car or you fail."
Now what did I actually have to sacrifice? I got rid of quite a few labs. It turns out that a lot of labs I do are only tangentially related to the standards. Basically, I did them because they were fun. For me, that was really hard. One of the reasons science teachers become science teachers is that it gives us an excuse to blow stuff up. Are my student's suffering because of it? I don't think so. It turns out my definition of fun is not the same as most of my kids. It also turns out that if I looked or thought a little harder I could come up with a replacement lab that's more aligned.
I think you don't have to sacrifice your pet project if you don't want to. You just have to change the emphasis. Instead of my students building a junk car and trying to get it to roll five meters, they attempted to find the difference in speed between a high incline and a low incline. If a student has learned everything they've needed to learn, why should they fail just because they thought the car was a stupid project?