Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A Word About Grades

***This is somewhat lengthy, but I wanted to make sure my message was delivered as clearly as possible!***

Each year as we improve or change or whatever new thing we are doing happens, there comes with that certain things that we have to change or improve as well.

The last few years I have placed a larger emphasis on individual student performance; this year those playing test grades have been counted as part of the overall grade for class.  This is in keeping with the increased accountability that is expected of all of us recently, as well as the idea that if you're in band, you should be in motivated at least a little to become a better player.

I don't, however, want everyone to suddenly be failing band, or negate all of the other quality work that goes on in the classroom.  Here is how things work for grades, in case you need a refresher:

There are four main categories - Daily performance (how students prepare and perform on a daily basis in class; do they have instruments, are they collaborating and cooperating with the teacher and other band members, etc.), outside of class rehearsals (like Monday nights in the fall), performance attendance (concerts, etc.), and playing tests.

They are weighted  - 
    Daily - 25%
    Playing Tests - 25%
    Performances - 40%
    Outside rehearsals - 10%

For the period that just ended last week, there were NO performances!  This is the first time in just about forever that this has happened during any term of the school year.  This left two grade categories - playing tests and daily performance.  Since both are treated with equal weight, a student who may perform very well in class but not on individual assessments may have received a lower overall grade than would be "fair."

After THAT, we need to average the 3rd and 4th nine weeks' grades.  And that is where trouble would start due to the fact that there were no performances last term.  (A student receiving a "C" due to a botched playing test, which was then averaged with an "A" for fourth marking period due to lots of performances, may still end up receiving a "B" for the semester.)

SO...  I have reset the grade book to do what we call "running grades."  This means that, while there will be a grade given for the 3rd nine week period, the points will actually carry over from 3rd to 4th nine weeks and all be averaged together for a final semester grade.  This should help everyone who is in that area of having a low playing test grade that has affected his/her nine week grade.  

 - This MAY NOT help those students who simply have not turned in playing tests.  Those are marked as "missing," and that has brought students' grades down to a failing level.
 - Students MAY re-submit the same test for a higher grade.

Questions?  Let me know - kwalker@zps.org


Wednesday, March 12, 2014


Hard to believe that summer is actually going to happen, but I am pretty sure that it will...

It's around this time each year that I start receiving all kinds of flyers and promo stuff for summer music camps.  I thought I would use this communication tool to get the word out on some of my favorites as well as let you know what else may be out there.

For high school students in grades 10-12 next school year, I firmly believe that WMU runs the best high school music experience.  Their "Seminar" music camp is about two weeks long at the end of July, and kids get a college-style experience rather than an outdoor camp one.  Students are housed in dorms on Western's campus, and have many opportunities to study and perform with outstanding educators and students.  Here is a link to the website:
 - http://www.wmich.edu/music-camp/

Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp also offers a decent experience, but my opinion is that it is not geared toward advanced HS kids.  I've sent both of my own children there, and Erin really enjoyed it; Nathan kind of "maxed out" in 9th grade as far as playing, but also enjoyed the experience.  (Nathan also attended WMU's camp.)  You can learn more about BLFAC here: http://www.bluelake.org/  We have had several ZHS students attend, and last year and this year had students accepted into the Blue Lake International program, giving them a chance to tour Europe in the summer.

CMU also runs a couple of camps - their Summer Music Institute runs for about a week in June, and there are a few other opportunities available.  Their website is https://www.cmich.edu/colleges/CCFA/CCFASchoolofMusic/CCFASOMAbouttheSchool/SOMASNews/Pages/2013-Summer-Music-Institute.aspx, though I cannot at this point find specific application information.

Alma College is far and away the very best.  They run a one- or two-week camp, with each week focusing on a different aspect of percussion.  Week one is usually marching percussion; week two is concert.  Information is here: http://www.alma.edu/academics/music/camps-workshops.php

Several entries here...
Aquinas College, right in GR, runs a great jazz camp in June.  There are options for commuting or overnight camps.  They focus on all levels of jazz, placing emphasis on some theory and improvisation as well as ensemble playing.  Web address: http://www.aquinas.edu/music/jazz_camp.html

A new one that I'm not familiar with, though I have immense respect for its founder.  The Keith Hall Summer Drum Intensive takes place at WMU and focuses on jazz percussion.  Keith Hall is an outstanding performer and educator.  Check it out here: http://www.keithhallmusic.com/education/khsdi/

By far the king of jazz camps is the Jamey Aebersold Jazz Workshop, now held in Louisville at the university campus.  Focusing on developing improvisation skills with students at all levels, this camp provides students with exercises and experience that are second to none.  I actually attended this camp as a student about 15 years ago, and it was a huge help to me as an educator; students learn SO much here!  It's far away, but it's the best: http://workshops.jazzbooks.com/

That sums up my immediate knowledge and experience.  I would be glad to assist you/your children with negotiating the summer camp waters if you need!  Email me at kwalker@zps.org if you have questions.