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hollyhock2

Course description question and grading

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When you write course descriptions for classes you do at home on your own (like Apologia Biology or Notgrass history courses), do you always include how you came up with a grade in the course? I have a system of coming up with a grade that I use for science and math, but everything else I just give somewhat arbitrary letter grades depending on how I feel my student performed in terms of effort, attitude and assignment completion. So I'm not sure how I would describe coming up with that kind of grade. Any suggestions?

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I listed "Grade based on tests" or "Grade based on tests and labs" or "Grade based on writing assignments".

How exactly you come up with the grade does not really contain any meaningful information for the college, since they don't see your assignments and tests and the rubrics you use to evaluate. 

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Although I would add that I don't think effort and attitude should have any part of an official grade. Institutional high schools don't do it, and neither will university professors. (Yes, I know there is always the exception, but, by and large, it won't and shouldn't happen.)

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46 minutes ago, learners4life said:

Although I would add that I don't think effort and attitude should have any part of an official grade. Institutional high schools don't do it, and neither will university professors. (Yes, I know there is always the exception, but, by and large, it won't and shouldn't happen.)

Whether it should happen or not, many high schools do grade effort and attitude by giving class participation grades.  I've seen them counted as 3%-10% of the final grade.      

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1 hour ago, learners4life said:

Although I would add that I don't think effort and attitude should have any part of an official grade. Institutional high schools don't do it, and neither will university professors. (Yes, I know there is always the exception, but, by and large, it won't and shouldn't happen.)

Of course they do, on a large scale. There are points given for merely attending.  Which is the minimum effort a student can make. 

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5 hours ago, learners4life said:

Although I would add that I don't think effort and attitude should have any part of an official grade. Institutional high schools don't do it, and neither will university professors. (Yes, I know there is always the exception, but, by and large, it won't and shouldn't happen.)

I always included a participation grade (generally 10%) when I was teaching college. My class (Introduction to Cultural Anthropology) was at least 50% discussion seminar, and so I needed to be able to demand that my students do the reading, think about it and participate in the conversation about it. I think that's very normal in humanities and social sciences; perhaps less so in science & mathematics classes. 

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Sometimes I had "Daily Work" or "Analysis and Discussion" as one of the things that part of the grade was based on. "Papers" also counted for part of the grade (sometimes a lot of the grade) for things like history and English courses. 

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A lot of my course descriptions say grade based on oral exams and essays since the majority of our homeschool classes are just discussion-based with additional research assignments requiring essays.

Edited by 8FillTheHeart
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4 hours ago, 8FillTheHeart said:

A lot of my course descriptions say grade based on oral exams and essays since the majority of our homeschool classes are just discussion-based with additional research assignments requiring essays.

Good idea, thanks. I do history and English this way, so that is helpful.

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Do we need to put in the percentages the grade is based on such as 50% chapter tests 25% homework, etc.?  Presently I just have (for Alg 1)  "Homework and chapter tests were used to determine the final grade"  and for Latin "Chapter quizzes and tests, vocabulary and grammar review, unit tests, and Latin readings were used to determine the final grade." Some of the Latin was graded for completion only, as with the math homework. I don't know if I need to indicate that? I wasn't going to.

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I don't say how each course was graded, but I do have a "grades" section in my school profile where I make some general statements about grading.

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4 minutes ago, cintinative said:

Do we need to put in the percentages the grade is based on such as 50% chapter tests 25% homework, etc.?  Presently I just have (for Alg 1)  "Homework and chapter tests were used to determine the final grade"  and for Latin "Chapter quizzes and tests, vocabulary and grammar review, unit tests, and Latin readings were used to determine the final grade." Some of the Latin was graded for completion only, as with the math homework. I don't know if I need to indicate that? I wasn't going to.

I didn't put any of this in for my older son (who got into 4 of the 5 colleges he applied to).  Schools don't have to document how grading was done, and having quite a bit of experience with b&m high school classes (rigorous public and private), I've come to realize that grading practices can be all over the map.

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25 minutes ago, Mom21 said:

 

From this link:

"When I wrote course descriptions, I tried to provide every possible individual grade I could within a grading table. I wasn't perfect, though. Some tests, quizzes, and lab reports I simply lost, and then I either left them blank or didn’t mention they were missing - as if I'd intentionally not used that test on purpose.

Provide descriptions any way you can - short or long, whatever works. I think any way that you decide is fine, and the more information you can provide the better."

I don't know how she could have fit every assignment with the grade in her course descriptions and not have the course description document turn out super long.  Do colleges really read course descriptions if they are 30 plus pages long? She is talking about one page per course.  It's not that I don't have the information, I do. It's just that I worry we will be disregarded because of information overload.  (Note: she does list other options which involve less information and space--I am just trying to address the "more information the better" comment.)

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On ‎10‎/‎7‎/‎2018 at 5:22 PM, klmama said:

 

Whether it should happen or not, many high schools do grade effort and attitude by giving class participation grades.  I've seen them counted as 3%-10% of the final grade.      

Same here; DD's college classes (she has 25 credits at CC and a 4 year uni) have often added a participation grade.  I think this is legit when using class time for literature or history discussions and I use that, although I don't use participation grades for math.

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I didn't put this info in individual course description.  Though I did include a blurb about it in our school profile.  Something like 

  • Classes marked as DE (dual enrollment) were awarded grades by Community College Name.  
  • Classes marked as OP (outside provider) were awarded grades by the class provider
  • Classes taught at home were awarded grades based on work completed and content mastery

All the stuff we did at home was taught to mastery.  If we had to step back, we did so.  OP/DE classes I had a description from those providers. If I required extra work to complete the "credit", I included that info as well.  

 

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On 10/4/2019 at 5:54 PM, cintinative said:

 

From this link:

"When I wrote course descriptions, I tried to provide every possible individual grade I could within a grading table. I wasn't perfect, though. Some tests, quizzes, and lab reports I simply lost, and then I either left them blank or didn’t mention they were missing - as if I'd intentionally not used that test on purpose.

Provide descriptions any way you can - short or long, whatever works. I think any way that you decide is fine, and the more information you can provide the better."

I don't know how she could have fit every assignment with the grade in her course descriptions and not have the course description document turn out super long.  Do colleges really read course descriptions if they are 30 plus pages long? She is talking about one page per course.  It's not that I don't have the information, I do. It's just that I worry we will be disregarded because of information overload.  (Note: she does list other options which involve less information and space--I am just trying to address the "more information the better" comment.)

That level of depth is ridiculous. No, they don't want to see a grade book.  I wrote to mastery for subjects like math or based on oral discussion and research/essays for subjects like history and lit. That has been accepted by every college my kids have ever applied to. 

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I've never assigned grades until I had to create a transcript and work backwards 3 years. So in my course descriptions, I had a line at the end of each homegrown class in the course descriptions that included requirements, but never mentioned how I graded. For example:

"Course requirements included reading assignments, participation in discussions, short essays, and a research paper."

I had a short blurb on my school profile that said that we graded based on mastery.

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On 10/4/2019 at 6:54 PM, cintinative said:

 

From this link:

"When I wrote course descriptions, I tried to provide every possible individual grade I could within a grading table. I wasn't perfect, though. Some tests, quizzes, and lab reports I simply lost, and then I either left them blank or didn’t mention they were missing - as if I'd intentionally not used that test on purpose.

 

In my opinion, that approach would be overwhelming and detract from the important components of the application document.  Fwiw, I had one sentence in the school profile that said that subjects were studied to mastery.  My kids were accepted by both state schools and private schools with no issues.

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I did not include grading information in my daughter's course descriptions.

A few sample course descriptions ~

This one was taken at the local community college:

WR 121 - English Composition: Exposition and Introduction to Argument

This is the fundamental course for all writing students that introduces students to the conventions of academic writing. It emphasizes defining and developing a significant topic and using principles of clear thinking to support an assertive thesis. Students should understand their subject matter, audience, purpose, and point-of-view, and demonstrate that understanding through the organization and development of their essays. Students should analyze and evaluate other writers' work to sharpen their critical abilities as readers and writers.

4.000 Credit Hours (Class taken at ZCC in 11th grade.)  Awarded 0.50 credits.

 

The next one was taken at our local homeschooling resource center (similar to a co-op):

Literature:  A Little Middle English

In this class students read portions of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, stories which have delighted English readers for 700 years.  Students read and interpret the stories together using the original Middle English text.  Several short reflective writing topics are assigned. (Class taken at Y Co-op in 10th grade.)  Awarded 0.25 credits.

 

The next two were home designed courses:

World Literature from 1700 to 2000

A study of 18th through 20th century short stories and novels with the intent of familiarizing the student with selected literary works of enduring quality.  This interdisciplinary course (see the associated History course below) allows the student to explore this time period by reading its literature while also studying its historical context.  (Class taken at home in 9th grade.)  Awarded 0.50 credits.

 

World History from 1700 to 2000

This reading-based course covers world-changing events of the 18th through 20th centuries which have shaped our culture today; it complements the associated Literature course (listed above) by giving the student a context for the literature studied. The course also includes musical recordings, documentaries, and videos of or about the time. Map work and short writing assignments are required. (Class taken at home in 9th grade.) Awarded 1.00 credits.

 

You'll note that I did not include textbook names or novel titles in my course descriptions. I included separate reading and textbook lists with that information.

Regards,

Kareni

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Wow, all of this has been very helpful, particularly the different approaches taken by the families.

So how about including list of books read in the course description? Would that look ok instead of making a reading list?

Also, what about for online courses? Do I write an abbreviated version of the course description on the provider's webpage?

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23 minutes ago, Joyful said:

Wow, all of this has been very helpful, particularly the different approaches taken by the families.

So how about including list of books read in the course description? Would that look ok instead of making a reading list?

Also, what about for online courses? Do I write an abbreviated version of the course description on the provider's webpage?

This is exactly what I did.  I included a book list under literature in English descriptions for example with titles/authors.

And I used course descriptions directly from providers if possible, or if they got long and wordy, I cut them to a paragraph.  If we did additional reading or projects or work beyond the scope, I would add a short paragraph on the end on how we rounded the course out.  

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46 minutes ago, Joyful said:

Wow, all of this has been very helpful, particularly the different approaches taken by the families.

So how about including list of books read in the course description? Would that look ok instead of making a reading list?

Also, what about for online courses? Do I write an abbreviated version of the course description on the provider's webpage?

My course descriptions are 3 columns. The first is title,  cr, and grade (if outsourced, this would also list provider. )The second is books, resources used. Third is the description. 

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On 9/25/2018 at 5:47 AM, hollyhock2 said:

but everything else I just give somewhat arbitrary letter grades depending on how I feel my student performed in terms of effort, attitude and assignment completion. So I'm not sure how I would describe coming up with that kind of grade. Any suggestions?

 

I actually never gave ANY grades throughout high school because I never thought I was going to create a transcript for american university applications and because NZ does not recognize homeschool coursework. When my ds decided to apply in American at the end of 11th grade, I had to dig through all my records and come up with grades retroactively. In the end I decided that that was an impossible task to do based on my recollection from years ago. So instead I based all grades for all classes on related standardized tests including the NZ national exams.  In 11th and 12th grade, he got top marks on 3 reading comprehension/writing external exams and 6 officially marked writing/research papers (NZ national internal assessments), so I gave him As in all classes that were based on reading comprehension, writing, and research for all of highschool which included all English and all Social Sciences. Same with science, music and math, exams in some years, dictated grades in all years.  This was the only way to be objective that I could determine. Basically, I considered 11th and 12th grade exams to be the capstone for all work done for all of highschool, so those marks were for the whole of his highschool. So in my course descriptions, I put the course requirements (reading, discussion, papers, etc), but did not list the specifics for how I came up with grades. I'm not convinced that admissions would care given that every. single. teacher would have a different grading method with a different justification.

So there are many ways to give grades from down in the weeds to high in the sky. No one questioned my ds's grades, and he has had no trouble in university so my assignment of grades couldn't have been too far off.  My point is, do the best you can, but don't worry too much about the details. I didn't have any grades to put on a transcript for ds's 20+ homegrown courses, but could still find a way to honestly represent my ds. 

Ruth in NZ 

Edited by lewelma
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On 10/12/2019 at 5:00 AM, Joyful said:

So how about including list of books read in the course description? Would that look ok instead of making a reading list?

Here are two different homegrown Social Science courses, both listing books/resources, but clearly one is much longer than the other. I did list books within the course descriptions, because one school in particular asked for a reading list for all of high school, and I thought it would be more useful to have it in context.

These were both unschooled courses that I had to pull together from many years of study to meet requirements for America. For history, I pulled together every single book, novel, movie that he had read/watched/studied over 3 years. Then I realized that he only started at about 1840 and finished with the Vietnam war (because we went to Vietnam one year and studied up before we went), which is why it has a strange date list.  But what is interesting, is that I doubt anyone would care. Just be honest and move on. 

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Edited by lewelma
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