My name is Scotty Jean-Baptiste, a 2013 Teach for America Corps member teaching 8th Grade Mathematics at Ruleville Middle School. I’m also serving as one of the Subject Area Corps Leaders for this school year. Through the SACL position I’ve learned a ton of valuable information about teaching and helping students gain comfort with becoming self-dependent advocates for their own math education.
This position has taught me the most about Performance Tasks. Having worked strictly under the MCT2 format last year, I didn’t really have much experience dealing with open-response questions in my math classroom. This year, however, the work that I present my students with rarely takes the form of multiple choice questions. Most of the work that my students do deals with open-response questions that require thorough explanations, evidence, and arguments for full credit.
This is especially the case in the 3 Performance Tasks that I’ve given to my students so far. This type of classwork was met with a ton of push-back from my students initially. My students complained about how “vague” and “unclear” this type of work was compared to the MCT2 style of problems that they tackled during their 7th grade year.
What really got my students invested in this type of classwork was getting them in on the grading process. This meant taking class time to share with them the grading rubric that I would be using on their assignments while also allowing them to grade other people’s work and share their justifications for why they gave certain grades. This first part was accomplished by editing the Mississippi Math Team’s Performance Task Quasar rubric into a more student-friendly version attached at the bottom of this post. The purpose for creating this student-friendly version of the Quasar rubric was to simplify its terminology. When I showed some of my students the original Quasar rubric, they complained about how complicated and confusing the wording was. Therefore, I altered the rubric in order to give my students a better chance of understanding it. Since presenting my students with this student-friendly version, they’ve been able to better understand the scores that they receive on performance tasks and exit tickets that I hand back to them.
I have my students reference this rubric when answering their own performance tasks. The goal is for my students to constantly ask themselves what they could be doing in order to get the highest score possible on their assignment. Sharing this rubric with them has helped my students better understand what my expectations are for every assignment. It has also helped them realize that my expectations are not too out of reach, and that they can rise to them. I try to post all of my performance task data in my classroom so that students can track their progress on these types of assessments as the year progresses. Since my students are familiar with the student-friendly version of the Quasar rubric, they know exactly what their score means. Here is a link to information on the math tracker: https://mississippimath.wordpress.com/2014/09/03/meaningful-feedback-with-the-mississippi-math-tracker-tutorial-and-guide/
With all of that being said, this year I’ve had a lot of struggles and issues in my classroom. The PARCC exam and the MCT2 exam might as well be written in different languages for how different the contents of the two are. I’ve definitely had some emotional lows and have second-guessed myself frequently due to my unfamiliarity with this. That being said, Performance Tasks are an integral part of the PARCC exam. Measuring and expanding our students’ ability to think critically about Common Core Standards while relating them to real life scenarios is what Performance Tasks are all about. In order to give my students equitable rigor in my classroom, I feel that I must use performance tasks and performance task grading as much as possible in my classroom.
Here are some major resources I have relied on throughout the start of this school year. Feel free to look through them and utilize them in you classroom.
Also, here’s a link to our region’s Math Resource Primer. Feel free to use it: https://mississippimath.wordpress.com/2014/10/08/the-math-resource-primer/
And here is a copy of my student friendly rubric if you’d like to use it: Final RMS Performance Task Grading Rubric
Thank you for taking the time to read this. Have a wonderful day.