# The 6 C’s of Claims-Based Grading

For the past three years, I have been using a claims-based grading system in my math classes. Rather than using the traditional categories of Tests, Quizzes and Homework, or the standards-based categories such as A.REI.1 or Solving Linear Equations, my grade book is now comprised of the following claims-based categories that I refer to as the 6 C’s:

• Concepts & Procedures
• Critical Thinking
• Communicating Reasoning
• Constructing Models
• Creativity
• Collaboration

I call these “claims” because the first four of the six draw directly from my state of California’s testing system, The Smart Balanced Assessment Consortium. The SBAC exams and reports are based on four Claims for Mathematics Summative Assessment:

I figured that since the signers of my paycheck now expect me to impart these four abilities to students, that maybe my grade book should reflect these capacities as well.

I also know that the famous 4 C’s of 21st Century Learning are important skills for students to possess when they graduate our schools, therefore I thought that should be reflected in my grade book as well.

Two of these 21st Century C’s overlap with the SBAC claims. By choosing the phrasing “critical thinking” over “problem solving” and tweaking the SBAC phrase of Modeling and Data Analysis just a bit, I had my own 6 C’s of Claims-Based Grading.

This new grading system has demonstrated terrific benefits in the classroom for both my students and myself…

###### Student Focus & Reflection

Having the picture shown above displayed as a poster at the front of the classroom serves as a constant reminder to students as to why they are in the course. There is much more to math the just busting out algorithms. If they never have to solve an equation in their adult life, hopefully, they will understand the mathematical principles that they hear about in the news, be able to think and communicate in a quantitatively manner, interpret data and represent the story that the numbers tell, solve problems creatively and work collaborative to meet a goal.  Claims-Based grading keeps these ultimate purposes front and center in the students’ minds.

My students also have a grade sheet that reflects the 6 C’s on which they record the scores they received on each assignment. Any given assignment may have more than one score on it, much like what is done with standards-based grading, with each score being based on a 5-Point Rubric (to be shared in a future post). In other words, after each assignment, students are required to look at how they performed in terms of, say, critical thinking or constructing models, rather than studying for a test.

The portfolios in the class are structured around the 6 C’s as well, with the first six of the eight sections being the 6 C’s themselves. After each assignment is recorded, it gets filed in their portfolio in one of the sections that it was graded on. For example, if an assignment was scored on Communicating Reasoning and Creativity, then the student gets to choose into which of those two sections the assignment will be placed.

###### Teacher Focus &  Reflection

The greatest benefit of the Claims-Based grading system is how much it reminds me to teach and assess the capacities that I often forget. I naturally teach to conceptual understanding, critical thinking, communicating reasoning, and collaboration, but I need to be frequently nudged to present students with tasks that require them to construct models and create unique examples or solutions. For example, a group quiz will pose several claims-based problems on the same mathematical topic with a few cumulative questions as well.

The Collaboration grade is always a self-assessed grade by the group, with me holding the power to veto. Quite often, though, they accurately score themselves. This is not surprising since we score it according to the school-wide norms on collaboration.

Reflecting upon the results of the Claims-Based grading has great value to me also. Take my end-of-semester results for one class, for example. (Note, there appears to be a large number of assignments, but remember that each assignment may have multiple scores, like the quiz example above.)

With the exception of the collaboration grade, the scores appear to be fairly consistent. This is interesting since individual students do not show this consistency. They usually have a claim or two that lags the others. The numbers that give me the most pause are the number of items. The few number of collaboration scores is not a concern, because most of the assessments are individual anyway. However, I am assessing procedures twice as much as critical thinking, three times as much as communicating reasoning and constructing models, and five times as much as creativity. I’m not convinced this is an issue, but I’m not convinced that it is not one either.

###### Moving Forward

For all the reasons that I have shared, I will be keeping this Claims-Based grading practice for a while. l see myself adjusting the system less, and using it to improve my instruction more.

###### Future Posts on Claims-Based Grading
• The 5-point Rubric

# Portfolios & Music Cues

Day 3, Fri Aug 14, 2015

Music Cues: I heard this great idea from Matt Vaudry at Twitter Math Camp ’15, on using music cues for certain transitions and activities. Matt uses MANY different songs, but I choose to use only three:

1) The Mission Impossible theme song for preparing for class: My students each have a Portfolio (3-Ring Binders), a workbook, and a whiteboard. Each pair of students has a “Tool Kit.” All of these must be at their desks, plus their cell phones must be placed face down on the outside corner of the desk. Matt gives them one minute of the song; since my students have to retrieve materials from the portcase, I give them two minutes.

2) The Benny Hill theme song for cleaning up: They must get everything put away and sit back in their desks, so we can debrief the lesson (The Brain Surgeon’s Wrinkle Sprinkle)

3) The Dun-Dun-DUN sound for announcing the instructional target. (Which we will start next week.)

We practiced these back to back a few times until we got it down. It works amazingly well! Thank you Matt.

Portfolios: I require students to keep a portfolio in class. The portfolio has a cover sheet that intentionally refers to them as “Genetically-Coded Math Experts.” I used today to reinforce the 6 C’s as our ultimate goal of the course, which I introduced yesterday. The portfolio is structured around these six values as is my grade book. My students from last year, received their portfolios back from Algebra 1; the new students received a free binder from an anonymous donor. We built the portfolios section by section.

I saved the students the grief of going through the syllabus. I gave them the Course Overview to read on their own (which they won’t) and have their parent’s sign (they won’t read it either) and return to their portfolios by the end of next week. Rather than bore them with the grading policies all at once, I discuss them briefly when they arise in class. (e.g. Discuss homework when the first homework assignment is assigned.)

Wrinkle Sprinkle

• The 6 C’s
• We are going to learn how to think

# First Day’s Transformation Question – Geometry

Day 1 & 2, Thurs Aug 13, 2015

{My school has a special tradition of activities on the first day in order to promote our school motto: S.P.I.R.I.T., Scholarship, Passion, Involvement, Reflection, Integrity, Teamwork. Teachers do not officially see their new students until Day 2}

Greeting the Crew: I greeted each student at the door with a high-5, inspired by Glenn Waddell (@gwaddellnvhs). All my students who finished the year with me last year, returned, with the addition of 13 new ones. These is a great bunch!

Opening Quiz on the 6 C’s: I always start every year by answering the transformation question: “How will you (the students) be different in June than you are now, because of my class?” This year I am answering that question with the same 6 C’s that I launched last year. My Claims-Based grading system and the students portfolios are structured as such also. These C’s are based on the Smarter Balance Claims and the 4 C’s of 21st Century Learning.

• Concepts & Procedures
• Critical Thinking
• Communicating Reasoning
• Constructioning Models
• Creativity
• Collaboration

I gave the students the blank copy of the quiz below, and told them this was not to be graded nor was it a test of their previous knowledge. It was like a movie trailer of things to come, but I still wanted them to give me their best shot. I then gave them my standard 3-response speech.

As a mathematician I cannot always give an accurate response; I cannot always give a complete response; but I can always, always, always give an intelligent response. Blank is not intelligent.

I pressed them to give me something… numbers, equations, drawings … anything intelligent.

They worked on these independently, then in groups, then as a class. I wanted to model this process right away, because I use it often.

Last year with this group I fielded the “I feel stupid comment;”  this year it was the, “She is really smart” comment. This gave me the opportunity to once again, press upon them that they are all smart; I’m just here to make them all smartER.

I posted on the board several of the responses that I saw on the student papers. I shared that these are the 6 C’s of the course. That these 6 things are really what they are here to learn. So I didn’t even answer the questions… that will come later in the course. I just wanted to highlight & explain what the first 4 C’s meant, and the other two would be woven throughout. I said that these things are what mathematicians really do, and that I am paid big bucks to get them all thinking like this in 10 months.

Introductions: I have each student briefly state their name and something interesting about themselves. I use the time that they are talking about the point of interest to review the names in the class, so at the end, I can recite all the names in class. Since I already knew most of the kids, this was easy.

I then shared that the reason that we did math first is because that is what we all about.. learning math … not collecting points… and the math was being learned by them, so those are the two most important things going on in the room on any given day. I also assume they can read the grading policy if I gave to them I didn’t have to bore them with it. Since this is the last class of the day, they all thanked me profusely, for that’s much of what they experienced their first day.

The Brain Surgeon: Last year I implemented some ideas that I came up with to promote Carole Dweck’s Growth Mindset findings. One of them was the Brain Surgeon, whose responsibilities are to read the target for the day, and lead the Wrinkle Sprinkle at the end of the period.

Wrinkle Sprinkle: This is another vehicle that I created to promote the Growth Mindset. My students from last year, knew the routine. I explained to the new students that when we learn, we don’t just shove stuff in our brains, but that the brain cells actually grow and connect to each. I joked that it was like getting a new wrinkle on the brain, and that we were into growing our brains in this class. Therefore, at the end of each class, we will debrief what we learned and write it on the board.

• How to Model a situation with a drawing (From questions #2 & 4 on the quiz)
• Logan can do a back flip
• Two people have last names in Spanish that mean a place, and another has a Spanish last name that means cow.

It was a high-spirited, fun first day. The students have me pumped for the year!

# First Day in Algebra 1

Day 1 & 2, Thurs Aug 14, 2014

{My school has a special tradition of activities on the first day in order to promote our school motto at Great Oak HS: S.P.I.R.I.T., Scholarship, Passion, Involvement, Reflection, Integrity, Teamwork. Teachers do not officially see their new students until Day 2}

The Drumroll: I have been pondering Carole Dweck‘s Growth Mindset findings, and came up with a couple of vehicles. The first is the Drumroll. I told the students that since this was my only class of the day (I am a math coach in the mornings), I will need their help getting in the right mood for class everyday with the drumroll. It goes like this.

Leader at the Front of the Room (today that was me): “Drumroll, please.”

{students drumroll on the desks);

{Leader points as students all hit loudly once on the desk and point back}
Class: “Are you?”

{Everyone fist pumps}
All: “Yes”

The students bought into it more than I anticipated, but they will need some practice coordinating the routine. We will get there. The most important thing was setting the tone that we are going to be about learning in this class.

Opening Quiz on the 6 C’s: I always start every year by answering the transformation question: “How will you (the students) be different in June than you are now, because of my class?” In the past, I answered with the 4 E’s, and structured my Portfolio’s as such. This year, to better align with the Common Core, I answered with the 6 C’s which are the 21st Century 4 C’s and the 4 Smarter Balance claims. Since two overlap, there are only 6. I structured my grade book and my portfolios around these 6 learning categories.

• Conceptual Understanding & Procedural Fluency
• Critical Thinking
• Construction of Models
• Communication of Reasoning
• Creativity
• Collaboration

I gave the students the blank copy of the quiz below, and told them this was not to be graded nor was it a test of their previous knowledge. It was like a movie trailer of things to come, but I still wanted them to give me their best shot. I then gave them my standard 3-response speech.

As a mathematician I cannot always give an accurate response; I can not always give a complete response; I can always, always, always give an intelligent response. Blank is not intelligent.

I pressed them to give me something… numbers, equations, drawings … anything intelligent.

I was waiting for the “I feel stupid comment,” and sure enough I got it. I responded with the “if you made it this far, you are already smart. I am here to make you smartER. As long as you are putting something down on the paper, you are building a wrinkle on the brain.” Then I explained how learning is filling your head with stuff, but making your brain cells reach out and make connections with each other. My new crew responded better than expected for the first day.

I posted on the board several of the responses that I saw on the student papers. I shared that these are the 6 C’s of the course. That these 6 things are really what they are here to learn. So I didn’t even answer the questions… that will come later in the course. I just wanted to highlight & explain what the first 4 C’s meant, and the other two would be woven throughout. I said that these things are what mathematicians really do, and that I am paid big bucks to get them all thinking like this in 10 months.

Introductions: I have each student stand up one at a time. They are to briefly state their name and something interesting about themselves. I use the time that they are talking about the point of interest to review the names in the class, so at the end, I can recite all the names in class. 100% this year! I then introduced myself. Good bonding day.

I then shared that the reason that we did math first is because that is what we all about.. learning math … not collecting points. I also assume they can read the grading policy if I gave to them I didn’t have to bore them with it. Since this is the last class of the day, they all thanked me profusely, for that’s much of what they experienced their first day.

Wrinkle Sprinkle: This is another vehicle that I created to promote the Growth Mindset. I explained to the students that when they learn, they don’t just shove stuff in their brain, but that the brain cells actually grow and connect to each. I joked that it was like getting a new wrinkle on the brain, and that we were into growing our brains in this class. Therefore, at the end of each class, we will debrief what we learned and write it on the board… thus a “wrinkle sprinkle.” My favorite for the first day…. “You will make us into mathematicians in ten months.” Yes! Glorious first day.