Course Expectations

Algebra 1 Course Expectations
Karl Fisch

Adjustments for Second Semester
The basic structure of our class will be the same. My views on homework haven't changed - I really don't think homework should be a big part of your grade (it's a time to practice and get better, not get graded) - and I also don't want to take class time just to check to make sure you've done it (I think there are better uses of our class time).

Based on the feedback that many of you gave me on the evaluation, however, you have a different opinion, so I'm going to compromise a bit. I'm going to bump up the "Preparation" category to 15% of your grade (from 10%), and drop the Skills Assessment to 67.5% and the Final Exam to 17.5%. Each day we have class you will have some kind of homework assignment that you'll need to submit on the Moodle that will be graded for completion.
  • For the homework videos, you'll still need to watch them and complete the self-check problems in your notebook, but now I'm going to ask you to submit the answers to the self-check problems on the Moodle. (That way I don't have to take class time to check that you've done them.)
  • The online pre-assessments will still be on the Moodle, but now I will grade them (again, for completion).
  • On nights when you don't have a video or a pre-assessment, you'll have some other short assignment - perhaps a couple of homework problems or a blog post - and you'll submit that on the Moodle as well (if it's a blog post, you'll submit the URL on the Moodle).
Other than that, things will be pretty similar to first semester. Please read through the course expectations again (below) to re-familiarize yourself with them. One word of caution, second semester is a bit harder for many students. Most of the topics we covered first semester you had at least some exposure to before. Most of the topics in second semester, however, will be new to you. So I encourage you to really stay on top of things, come in for help when you need it, and do a good job on your re-assessments if and when they are necessary. 

Once you feel like you completely understand these changes for second semester, please fill out this form to indicate your understanding. 

Welcome to Algebra! This document is designed to help you be successful in our class. Please read it carefully and don’t hesitate to ask questions if there’s anything you don’t understand.

Contact Information
Cell Phone: 720-ToFisch (720.863.4724) - calls and texts okay, but won't accept picture texts
Email: kfisch {at} lps {dot} k12 {dot} co {dot} us
Email for Google Apps: kfisch {at} lpsk12 {dot} org
Twitter: karlfisch
Facebook: karlfisch
Skype: karlfisch
Diigo: karlfisch
Delicious: kfisch
Class Website/Blog: Fisch Algebra 2011-12

Office Hours
Due to my other responsibilities, my office hours are by appointment (but you can always try dropping in to see if I’m available, my office is just east of the media center). If you can't find me, there is pretty much always a math teacher available in the math office (south hall, roughly opposite my office in the north hall) who's ready and willing to help.

3-Ring Binder, Notebook Paper, Graph Paper, Writing Utensils, Calculator (Graphing preferred)

Course Goals
  • Content Goal: Learn the Algebra skills.

  • Habits of Mind Goal: Become better problem solvers by getting better at asking good questions, thinking mathematically and reasoning mathematically.

  • Collaborative Goal: Become better at working together to achieve a common objective.

  • Metacognitive Goal: Learn more about yourself as a learner and use that to become a better learner.
You will have homework most nights, but it will rarely be a long set of problems. Homework will include activities such as watching short instructional videos (one to two per week on average), working a few carefully selected problems, reflecting on a math concept or your learning in writing, taking a self-assessment over an Algebra skill, or other purposeful activities that will help you succeed in our class.

I believe that there is a difference between assessment and grading. Assessment is less about assigning a grade and more about getting better at what we can do. Not all of your work will be graded, but all work is used to assess your learning.

Your grade will be comprised of the following three weighted categories:

10% Preparation (includes, but is not limited to, homework, in-class activities, and reflection)

70% Skills Assessment (assessment over individual Algebra skills - more below)

20% Summative Assessment* (common Algebra I Final Exam)

Your overall grade will be computed from the weights given to those categories using the standard AHS grading scale (A: 90-100%, B: 80-89%, C: 70-79%, D: 60-69%, F: 59% and below).

*If, however, your score on the final exam is higher than your grade up to that point, your final exam grade will become your overall grade for the semester.

Skills Assessment
You will be assessed over the essential skills in Algebra I. For each skill you will take an initial self-assessment that gives you an idea of how you’re doing, but is not recorded in the gradebook. You will then be assessed over that skill in class and your proficiency will be recorded in the gradebook.

Each assessment will be scored using the following scale:

5.0 = Demonstrates thorough understanding
4.5 = High level of understanding, but with small errors
3.5 = Demonstrates understanding, but with significant gaps
3.0 = Shows some understanding, but insufficient to be successful
2.5 = Attempts the problem

Because Algebra is skill-based, it is essential that you master the skills as we go along and not get behind, otherwise you will quickly find it difficult to master new skills. Therefore, if you did not score proficient on the skill (4.5 or 5.0 on the scale), that grade is temporary. You will have multiple opportunities to get help from various sources and then re-assess over that skill, and your improved score will replace your previous score in the gradebook. You may re-assess as often as once per day, by appointment, for the next five school days (for a possible total of up to five re-assessments). I can’t emphasize enough how critical it is that you master these skills along the way - the expectation is that you will take full advantage of this opportunity to not only improve your grade, but to improve your understanding.

If you score a 2.5 or a 3 on the original assessment (given in class) it will not get put in the gradebook. Instead, the assessment will show as missing (with your score noted in the comments) until you come in at least once and re-assess. If you should still get a 2.5 or a 3 on a re-assessment, then that will go in the gradebook, but you need to make at least one attempt to improve your score (and your understanding) before it goes in the gradebook. Remember, you can re-assess up to five times, no matter what your original score. Until you get at least a 4.5 (preferably a 5), I expect you to continue re-assessing. The reasoning behind this is that a 2.5 or a 3 shows that you still have some major gaps in your understanding that we need to address.

Classroom Policies
Here’s the one rule you need to remember:

Do the right thing.

Seriously, that’s pretty much all you have to remember. Of course you have to follow all the rules in the LPS Student Code of Conduct, as well as all AHS policies as listed in your student calendar but, in the end, it pretty much boils down to do the right thing. While I think that at least 98% of the time you know what the right thing is, if you’re ever unsure, ask.

If you really want a longer list, here you go:
  • You may engage in any behavior that does not create a problem for you or anyone else.
  • If you find yourself with a problem, you may solve it by any means that does not cause a problem for you or anyone else.
  • You may engage in any behavior that does not jeopardize the safety or learning of yourself or others. Unkind words and actions will not be tolerated.
We will also develop a list of expectations for each other.

Attendance and Tardies
This is pretty simple as well. All district and AHS policies apply, including the rules regarding make-up work. But, in general:
  • It's very important to attend class every day. There’s a high positive correlation between attendance and success in school. Obviously if you are very sick, coming to school is a bad idea but, otherwise, you should be here. If you are absent, you are expected to check online to see what you’ve missed before coming back to school (and to begin working on it). This will provide you the best opportunity to be successful.

  • If at all possible, don’t be tardy. Our class is first period, so with the rare exception of a snow storm or other unusual circumstance that makes it difficult to get to school on time, you should be in class, on time, every day. Being late under normal circumstances is disrespectful to your classmates, your teacher, and yourself, and it makes it more difficult for you to be successful in our class, so please don’t be late.
In the unlikely event that attendance or tardies become an issue, then we will have a conversation and an appropriate plan will be developed to fix the problem.

If you have any questions, please contact me. Once you feel like you completely understand these expectations, please fill out this form to indicate your understanding. Thank you for taking the time to thoughtfully consider these expectations, and I’m looking forward to our time together in Algebra I.

Karl Fisch
August 2011