For over 5 years I have used a SBG (standards-based grading) system in my room. It starts with listing out the learning targets and only using assessments on those learning targets for the grade. No homework, no behaviors, etc... I have always liked this setup, but I have noticed it shifted my class to a more skill based class. Math became a series of skills, that though they were connected, it seemed the students were less able to apply them in other situations.
My homework reflected this as well. I don't give a lot of HW, but for the last couple years I have exclusively used websites like IXL.com and Buzzmath.com for homework.
So I decided something needed to change this year. Here is my plan. In both homework and quizzes there will be two categories: Skills and ACE. Skills HW is from websites and Skill Quizzes are the same as they have been. They are pretty bare bones and focus on whether or not the student can do the math skill or not. What I have added is the ACE HW and quizzes. I took the ACE HW name from my old CMP2 curriculum. It stands for Applications, Connections and Extensions. I could think of no better name for what I am trying to get at with this new HW and quizzes. So I am currently alternating between IXL skills HW and ACE HW.
In both cases I am still allowing student choice. The Skill IXL homework comes with 3 choices, Level 4, Level 3 and Level 2 HW. The ACE HW comes with the directions to answer 2 of the questions. The questions have multiple parts and often involve multiple steps and critical thinking to be properly solved. I have a variety of Level 4 and Level 3 problems on the ACE HW. The last ACE HW for 8th grade can be seen here.
The 7th graders just had their first ACE quiz. It went pretty well. Most students perfectly applied their knowledge to the problem. The average score on the Skills quiz was 3.6, while on the ACE quiz it was 3.2. The 3.6 included retakes by numerous students. The 8th graders will have their first ACE quiz next week.
Grading has stayed mostly the same. Their grade was always based on their most recent two quizzes. Now their grade for each learning target is based on their most recent Skills quiz and their most recent ACE quiz. So parents will get a report listing each learning target, their 2 quiz scores and the resulting grade. A summary of how I go from 2 1-4 scores to a percentage grade can be found HERE.
So far, I am very happy with how this is going. I hope it will lead to more problem solving, critical thinking, and applying math in various contexts.