"Each according to their needs, each according to their ability"
Not every student is built the same. Using the Ken Robinson idea, we each have our own "date of manufacturing" and this is a poor way to organize students into grades. While teachers strive to support their students, that support will look different for each student. Fair does not mean equal.
"If it is not your best, then what is stopping you?"
There is lack of effort, putting forth an effort, and putting forth a smart effort. The difference? A smart effort is when students look at the criteria, ask questions, make a plan, and follow it through. If there is an area that you struggle with, learn to be specific. Saying, "I don't get it" does not give me enough information to know where to help you. Be an active reader, and re-read the instructions for a given assignment/ passage/ project. If you cannot answer where your comprehension is lost, it is difficult to expect someone else to help you find the proper direction.
Portfolios and Self-Assessment
Portfolios - In my classes, students will be creating paper-based portfolios for most units. Students will attempt to carry their learning forward on each step of the learning journey. This will involve conferencing with me and developing an awareness of the assignment's learning goals. Students will be assessed a percentage grade for each portfolio unit and the focus will be on growth. These unit assessments will combine to provide the final grade for the course. At the end of each unit, students will select their best work to post on their Scholantis portfolio along with a discussion of their learning. This e-portfolio is a work in progress and will require patience from all parties as there will be a learning curve.
Self-Assessment - This is crucial. Students need to learn about their strengths and take ownership over areas of growth. As a basis of conversation in both English 10 and 12, students will be using scoring rubrics for their assignments. If there is a signficant difference between the self-evaluation and the teacher evaluation, that is a wonderful opportunity to have a discussion.
Missed Work and Zeros
Assignments - There has been a trend in the past several years for students to "play the game". They do little or no work, and expect to be socially promoted in the early grades when students are developing work habits. Thus, by grade 10, some students are so behind in their foundational skills, they have essentially poisoned their educational well. I do not give 'make work' assignments. Each project involves learning goals and skills so students are expected to complete them. Zeroes are not an option because students should not opt out of learning. However, assignments can and will be adapted for students as needed. Feedback will help students understand where they are in their learning journey and gives them a direction for their next steps.
If a student has not submitted a major assignment, he or she is required to do that within a reasonable amount of time. After one week from a performance assessment or two weeks for a major project, the student may be required to do an alternative assessment piece. This is not about giving a zero. This is about allowing those who have demonstrated the ability to complete the work to receive it back in a timely manner and help support their "next steps" in their learning.