The Audit

I doubled up on preps this week. I turned two classes into four and spent ten free-time hours planning twelve hours of instruction. Any teacher looking to stay sane and healthy will tell you that a 1:1 ratio of planning hours to instructional hours (or anything close) is a lousy way to go about it.

Today was a special occasion, however. A terrible day for free-time, but a proud day for assessment.

On Tuesday I passed out quarter-sheets of paper, one to every student.

Each paper carried with it my record of their assessment scores — the only record that had any bearing on their grade. I asked them to pull out their Concept Checklists — their record — and compare the two, verifying that their highest score for any given concept on their list matched the grade in my books.

There were a couple of problems; there always are. I walked around and if a student claimed a higher grade than I had credited her, I asked her to show me the right test, and then I corrected the matter.

Then I asked them how we were doing as a class.

My third period guessed the top seven off the cuff, which speaks huge to the value of the running Concept Checklist they keep. These kids know where they’re weak, where they’re strong. I asked them which I cared about more: the top seven or the bottom six. They knew the answer.

I told them that over the next two classes we were going to pick up concepts we’d dropped, reviewing, re-learning, and then re-testing. I told them their grade couldn’t drop. 2’s wouldn’t turn into 1’s. “You guys have already shown that you can’t do these concepts,” I said. “It’s time to show me you can.”

I put up their classwork.

Each assignment corresponded to a low concept. Each assignment also had a list of names beneath it. I told them that these were today’s mentors. Mentors were excused from that concept’s classwork and assessment. They did have to help any student who asked for it, however.

While I’ve used this strategy every year in planning my dead week, this was the first time I included mentors in the mix. It was an empowering moment for all those involved, especially for those who appeared on multiple lists.

Then we re-assessed. I gave the hardest question I could imagine for each concept.

Results were encouraging. Lots of students kept the same score. Lots of students improved, however, and the chorus of “Oh that’s how you do it … ” during classwork was loud enough to justify this kind of spiraling.

Rather than averaging my two algebra classes together and averaging my two geometry classes together, I customized classwork, mentor lists, and assessments for each. Here, exhuasted at the end of the week, I’m positive it was for the best.

I'm Dan and this is my blog. I'm a former high school math teacher and current head of teaching at Desmos. He / him. More here.


  1. I really like the accountability of having the students compare their own Concept Checklist with your official record. Of course in theory everything would match up but I like how you bring them into the process of grading by checking with their own records. And by having them pull out their copy of a given assessment (to compare the recorded grade), again it holds them accountable for previous work.

  2. Yeah, you’ve got it. There are a lot of necessary barriers between teacher and student but this is one I’m happy to do away with. I don’t bring their grades down from a mountain top engraved in stone. These are our grades.

    Chatting with Todd and L-Squared, I can only conclude I have a lot of calibrating still to do. I’ll endure that process and more, though, if it means my students stay this empowered.

    Thanks for the comments.