Teachers. Technology. Together.
Fourteen out of the 16 years I taught in a Math/Algebra classroom, I used grade contracts. The two years I didn’t, my students scores on the Texas standardized tests went down and overall academic success was reduced, as well. I immediately put the contract back into place and the scores jumped back up as did student outcomes. Perhaps the biggest positive was that my students loved the contract.
I taught middle school. The Grade Contract came about because I was troubled when a student received a lower grade and, not having any other recourse, simply tossed it into a notebook or trash can. I wanted them to go back to the assignment, revisit it, sit with me and gain the missing pieces that would ensure their mastery of the concepts. However, there was little incentive to do so. That’s where the grade contacts came in.
Every year, I would provide the contracts to the student and explain the process:
I often travel and provide professional development on the use of a classroom website as an instructional tool. On my Sample Classroom Website that I use to provide the trainings, I have this Grade Contract. Over the years, it’s always been a joy to have someone stop by to share that they are using their classroom websites but also have had great success with the grade contracts, as well.
It may seem like an unusual idea but it was a powerful concept that improved student success in my classroom and gave the students an opportunity to focus on mastery and not a “one-time-grade-or-fail” philosophy. They knew my goal was that they get the concepts that would help them as their education moved forward.
Below is a copy of the Grade Contract I actually used with the students and their parents. I’d love to hear what you think about it so please share your thoughts and, if you’ve used a grade contract, please share your experiences.
Grade ContractMATH AND ALGEBRA GRADE CONTRACT TO BE TURNED IN BY NEXT CLASS PERIOD What is a grade contract? A grade contract is an agreement between parent, student, and Mrs. Mortensen that the student will earn a grade of A or B. Why do I offer grade contracts? First of all, I KNOW that you can earn the grade that you and your parent(s) select! Secondly, by correcting the work that you might have had trouble with, you have a better chance of really understanding the important material! Who chooses the grade? The student and parent must agree on one grade, circle it, sign and return the attached paper. A parent and student may also fill out the grade contract form found on my class website at Mrs. Mortensen's Website. In cases where the student and parent do not agree, the parent's choice will be the grade that is final. How does it work? When the student turns in an assignment, it is graded and recorded in the gradebook. If the grade is the same (or better) than the contract grade selected, the student will have met their contract requirement and simply files the assignment in their binder. However, if the student earns a grade lower than their contract grade, they must correct the errors and turn in the corrections and the original assignment. The assignment will then be graded again and the new grade recorded in place of the original grade. This process is continued until the student has earned their contract grade on each assignment. Why do I have to turn in the original work? You must turn in the original work so Mrs. Mortensen will know what errors need to be corrected. What happens if I lose the original paper? If you lose the original paper and you have not met your contract grade, you must complete the entire assignment again. It is really important not to lose your papers! What happens if I just can't make my contract grade on an assignment? If you find you are struggling with an assignment, and you just can't seem to understand how to correct it, ask for help. Ask Mrs. Mortensen, your parents, or a friend that understands the assignment. You may also come to tutoring. If we work together, you will meet your contract grade. Can I just put the correct answer on my corrections? Um, nope! For every math assignment, you must always show your work! If you just put the answers, I'll need to ask you to do the assignment again and show your work to receive credit! The goal of the contracts is to be sure you really understand all of the material and showing your work helps me see that. Don't worry, you will understand! What is Mrs. Mortensen's responsibility in the contract? It is my responsibility to teach, grade your assignments and corrections, and give you as much extra help as you need to meet your contract grade. I also get the fun of giving out all those excellent grades. It is important that you know that my role in the contract also means informing your parent right away if you are missing work, not doing corrections, or need to schedule some time for extra help. What is the parent's responsibility in the contract? The parent's responsibility is to discuss the grade contract, decide on a contract grade, notify me when concerns arise, and encourage their child to earn their contract grade. What is the student's responsibility in the contract? The student's responsibility is to turn all of their work in on time, make corrections for any work that is below their contract grade, ask for help when necessary, and to show off their progress report and report card when they receive that awesome math grade. Can I turn in late work and still make the contract grade? Work is expected to be turned in on time. I will call home if an assignment is not turned in because a zero means you are not meeting your contract grade. If an unexpected problem comes up, talk to me as soon as possible so I can work with you. If possible, bring a parent note explaining the problem. Can I change my contract grade? Yes! But, in order to change your grade, your parent must send me a note or an email requesting the grade change. If your parent does not agree to a grade change, your contract grade will remain the same. Please remember, your grade choices are A or B. Does my parent have to sign the contract? No! There is a place on the signature slip and in the online form for your parent to sign if they choose for you not to participate in the contract. If you do not participate, you will simply receive the grade that you earn on the assignments when you turn them in the first time. Does this apply to every assignment, even tests and projects? This definitely applies to daily assignments and homework. Whenever possible (and time permits), test and projects may be corrected. Can I earn a grade higher than my contract grade? Yes! In fact, it is common for a student and parent to choose a B-contract but earn an A, instead. Can I earn a grade lower than my contract grade? It's possible for this to happen. However, it is rare. Usually, I am able to contact you and your parent long before this situation occurs and we work together to earn your contract grade. Does the grade contract apply to every class? This contract is for Mrs. Mortensen's Math or Algebra classes only.