Signing Contracts for Grades

Overview: The contracts we focus on here help teachers assess students’ understanding of the objectives of a unit. Contracts can help younger students grasp the basics of setting a goal (the contract) and dealing with the smaller pieces needed in achieving that goal (the projects). Older students can benefit from the process by realizing a greater state of independence and responsibility in school lives. Most of the procedure involves teacher preparation, followed with students picking from a list of given projects that are worth varying grade points to achieve the total letter or point grade the student desires.

Contracts seem to involve lots of teacher preparation, and they do. But the benefits are: class time is spent monitoring and helping with projects as opposed to needing a new lesson every day, it provides a change of routine in the classroom, students get to have input in learning activities, students get to choose to focus on projects that show off their best skills, and the finished projects don’t come in all at once during the two to three weeks a contract can last making grading easier.
Resources: Teacher: none. Student: variable depending on project.
Teacher Preparation: see below.
Procedure Ideas:

  1. Prepare a list of projects that students will choose from. Look for processes that include different ways of communicating information such as art, writing, research, constructing models or making timelines. Difficulty of each project will affect number 4 below.
  2. Determine a point value for each project.
  3. Decide on a grading scale.
  4. Determine the length of time for the contract, factoring in the difficulty and time needed for the various projects.
  5. Write a contract stating that the student will be responsible for completing and handing in projects of their choosing to achieve the total number of points they desire.
  6. Make a project sheet for each student listing all projects with their corresponding maximum point values and blanks for the number of points they actually receive upon completion. This is handed in with each project and returned to the student so they can keep track of their accumulated points for the contract.
  7. Hand out the project sheets and contract sheets and explain the contract procedure.
  8. Have students decide what grade they wish to contract for, and determine which projects they must complete to receive that grade.
  9. Monitor student progress and grade projects as they are turned in.
  10. After each project is completed and graded and the project sheet is returned to the student, they much determine if they must complete extra projects in order to meet their contract goal.
  11. At the end of the predetermined contract period, uncompleted projects do not apply toward the goal.

Variations/Options: Teacher can set milestones so that certain numbers of projects or points are done by certain dates to keep students on-schedule; contracts can be used for upper grades as outside work or longer periods of time; contracts can involve community service work, number of books read, working with partners, apprenticeship with local businesses.