A few days ago I posted an update of my current bow tie belt rank practice. This week I made one additional tweak to streamline the process. My district uses achievementseries.com for our web based testing and I have created mini 10 question content quizzes for each rank. The quizzes are the 1st part of the “bow test” and are cumulative based on my expectation of where the student should be content-wise at the minimum XP level to test. So the rank halfway between the lowest rank of white tie and highest rank of black tie is a blue tie. Since my curriculum has 8 standards, at this half way rank a testing student would have a cumulative 10 question quiz on standards 1 through 4.

The quizzes are not “graded” in the sense that doing poorly hurts the students overall class average. The testing student needs to get an 8/10 or better to move on to the performance task. If they ‘fail’ they can try again the next class. I also have some ‘powercards’ that allow a student to drop the quiz to 6/10 or even remove the quiz altogether. The point of the quiz is to keep the material fresh in the students minds all year without it feeling punative and giving me data about what they can and can’t recall. I find that it is also allowing for some positive conversations between myself and struggling students or between 2 students after the quiz. Instead of being irritated that their ‘quiz grade’ is going down, students that fail a quiz are chatting with me or another student about how to improve. There is a feeling of collaboration.

I also had my first wave of performance task failures this week. The first task, to move from white tie to white bow tie was fairly simple; separating primary and secondary sources. In the move from white bow to yellow tie the performance task was selecting and explain which of two secondary sources I provided was more ‘valid’. I had thoight this would be another straight forward ‘test’. About 1/2 of the testing students failed this task though. They committed a common error of looking at the ‘production value’ and web address (falling for a .org) instead of looking into the author. Most asked for leniency, but in each case we had a brief conversation about the skill I was looking for. In almost every instance the student immediately recognized the error and knew how to fix it. This was not the first time the skill had been discussed. The difference though was that the students were able to retry the performance task the next class – after time to reflect on the mistake – and each passed easily.

When planning the ranking system last year I had worried no students would voluntarily take quizzes and performance tasks. After a full 9 week quarter over 60 of my 90 students have moved from the first white tie level to the white bow level though. Of those about half have moved to the 3rd level yellow tie. And I have about 10 beyond that rank! Again, all voluntary! In fact my recent tweak to the system was based on so many students wanting to take the tests to increase their rank that I needed to streamline the process! Now, I have the achievementseries quiz codes posted on color coordinated folders for each rank test and students can get the code when they feel they are ready. They have to test in the classroom and I can see the test results from my laptop which limits efforts to cheat. If they pass the quiz, the student can then get the performance task directions and materials from the color coordinated folder and show me the results. In all it has resuced the number of interruptions to other student conferences.

I meant this as a quick update – it went on too long. It was also an excuse to show off a rank promotion ceremony! I had 5 students choose to participate in the ceremony. Many choose not to out of humility, but for the ones that do participate it is the prime motivator in their ranking efforts. Enjoy!

Rank Promotion Celebration Video Link