Grade Contract: Why My Students Excelled With It | MyWeb4Ed | MyWeb4Ed |

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:

Contracts were voluntary. Parents could absolutely decide their child would not participate (but in my 14 years with them, not one parent ever did.)Students AND their parents chose a grade of A or B. This meant that the student agreed to correct each and every assignment to their selected grade of A or B. No exceptions.If a student and parent disagreed on the grade choice, the parent always won. Period.Student corrections could not simply be a piece of paper with the correct answer. (Ex: Wrong answer was False, student turns in True) Instead, the students must show their work completely and explain what the mistake was and how they corrected it.Students must turn in the original assignment with the corrections. Losing the original work meant the entire assignment would need to be redone. (Students RARELY lost their assignments.)My role in the contract was to keep the students and parents very well informed of any missing grades or low grades that needed corrections. My role was also to provide support to the student to remediate and strengthen their skills so they could meet their contract grade.The parents’ role was to encourage and motivate their students to complete the work. When notified of a missing or low grade, the parents also agreed to support their students in their efforts to correct what was not understood to achieve their contract grade.The students’ role was to do the work in a timely fashion and seek support whenever it was needed. Oh, and the students had one more job – to celebrate with their parents when the took home that A or B.

The realities:

Students immediately saw themselves as an “A” or “B” student. I taught in an economically challenged area and the students dealt with some very real-life struggles that many students don’t encounter. Many of the students who previously saw themselves as a “bad” Math Student immediately changed their own perceptions. “I’m an A student,” they’d proclaim! Of course, they always could have been but there was something about the contract that made it real for them.Parents and students loved the security of the contract. They especially liked the idea that all of the concepts covered were considered important for mastery. Most importantly, students and parents expressed openly that the contract helped with differentiation because students who needed some more time or support to master concepts was given that opportunity.Student grades improved. In fact, few students who chose a “B” actually made a “B.” Most made “A’s.”Standardized test scores improved (In our high stakes state, that was a BIG deal.)The first 60 days of the school year meant that I was making a lot of contact with the parents and the students. Inevitably, students didn’t turn something in or their grade was low and they didn’t correct it and I had to ensure that they knew about it. If we couldn’t get it rectified, then I needed to contact parents. I made a lot of phone calls and worked extra time with a lot of students. It was the most rewarding (and exhausting) experience! I learned who my students were, learned their learning styles, and built relationships with them and their parents. Hard work? Yes! Worth every minute? Absolutely!Not ever student made their contract grade. I did have students who made C’s and D’s. In all cases, these were students who had not been successful in previous years and had failed Math at least once. In this case, I’d say they were a success.Yes, I had some students receive failing grades. It breaks my heart to say that some of the students did fail. This situation was very rare but it did happen. And, because of the contact I had with the students and their parents, this only occurred with the parents and the student being 100% aware of the situation and how it had come to this grade. When the situation occurred, we jumped right on the grade contract again and worked towards the next semester’s grade.I threw my bell curve lessons out the window and had a goal of an all A class. We came close but we never quite earned 100% A grades.

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. (Click on the article title for the grade contract)