In the past, the rigor of a semester-end final exams fluctuated wildly at our school. This has a great deal to do with the District schedule, which does not allow teachers sufficient time to grade exams. As a result, final exams have either become multiple choice exams or less meaningful activities with little to no academic value. This year, our Ninth Grade Academy tried to be more consistent with our finals. My exam was weighted at 15% of a student’s overall grade. The District mandated that all World History students write to the same prompt: compare & contrast capitalism and socialism.
Students were given some background knowledge on the evolution of capitalism and socialism in a handout featuring excerpts from Karl Marx, Frederich Engels, and Adam Smith. I provided a Zaption presentation to the whole class where students could answer questions that were embedded into a 14 minute Capitalism & Socialism Crash Course video number 33. Students were given digital devices and asked to answer questions. After the video, students retained the devices and played an online game of Kahoot, where they were asked to demonstrate their understanding of the differences between capitalism and socialism with 10 different scenarios. Students were also given compare/contrast sentence stems and one hour to answer the prompt. During the writing process, students were asked to underline claims and put parentheses (around any explanations, or evidence that supported the claims).
The purpose of this final exam was to measure student effort. Following some great advice to have students write more and grade less. I charted word length, the number of claims, and the number of explanations and divided them into thirds, assigning each third a progressive amount of points, (i.e. 100, 95, 90, 89, 85, 80, 79, 75, 70). Grading was done class by class, but I have included all 164 of my ninth grade students below to help inform parents as to how their child is faring in regards to their peers.
This assignment allowed me to give students a rigorous writing task, evaluate their efforts, and help students who had lost points by missing previous deadlines earn enough points to boost their grades.
When we return to school after Winter Break, students will have the opportunity to engage in a process of peer review and revise their essays for additional points.