Starting this term, every public school student in Oregon is supposed to be graded solely by whether they have mastered the academic skills covered in class.
Turning everything in neat and on time, bringing back signed forms and racking up extra credit won't boost grades. Turning assignments in late, skipping homework and talking during class won't hurt, as long as the student can demonstrate the key skills and knowledge covered in the course.In reality, it won't always work that way, especially not in this first year that, by law, grades must be based purely on academic achievement. But educators agree it's causing emotional discussions, big policy changes and a huge culture shift in schools.
And almost everywhere, teachers and principals are wrestling with the question of how to keep students motivated and practiced at meeting deadlines if late work doesn't get docked.
"Turning in your work late is really a bad habit, no matter who you are or what you do," said Amy Jackson, curriculum director for Reynolds schools, who nonetheless strongly supports moving to the new approach.
"The idea, the goal, is that students and parents deserve an accurate picture of where that student is academically," said Matt Casteel, a former Beaverton principal promoted two weeks ago to the new position of administrator for grading and reporting.
How a sampling of large metro-area districts will determine middle and high school grades this year.
Most elementary school report cards won't change because most have long graded students on whether they exceed, meet or nearly meet academic expectations in each subject and separately reported demonstrate desired behaviors such as completing homework and trying hard.
Portland: Students will be graded only on demonstrated mastery of academic standards, with behavior marks reported separately, according to Melissa Goff, executive director of teaching and learning. Those will result in an overall proficiency grade or letter grade. Goff did not answer questions about whether Portland teachers will dock points for late assignments. It appears most teachers retain that latitude.
Beaverton: Students will be graded only on academic achievement with behavior noted separately in most cases. No edicts prohibit late work and other behavior from affecting the academic grade. Behavior is rately separately each term; teachers can factor that into the overall grade but generally don't.
Hillsboro: Teachers were required, starting last year, to grade only on demonstrated achievement of academic standards covered in each course. Behavior is noted in the comment section of report cards. Teachers aren't prohibited from taking points off assignments purely for being late if they can make the case that on-time completion was an academic skill, not a behavior. Course grades are A to F.
Tigard-Tualatin: District officials mistakenly got the impression that they could delay switching until next year because top leaders are new. Informing teachers and planning will start soon.
Sherwood: Grades will reflect academic mastery only; behavior will be addressed in the comments section. Course grades are A to F. Homework cannot count toward grades unless it is corrected and students receive feedback. Teachers are encouraged, but not required, to let students retake tests. Teachers have no firm line on whether they must accept late work or can dock points for lateness.
Forest Grove: The district has taken proficiency grading further than any other metro district. Students can turn in work and retake tests until the final day of the grading period and get full credit for the level of proficiency they demonstrate. Behavior, including turning in work on time, is considered separately and counts toward a maximum of 10 percent of overall grade. Students must demonstrate minimum proficiency on every academic standard in a course to pass.
Lake Oswego: It is standard practice to not include behavior in grades, said spokeswoman Nancy Duin. A committee of teachers and other employees will determine soon whether grading changes are needed to comply with the new rules.
Reynolds: In theory, schools will switch this year to grading students exclusively on proficiency, with behaviors marked in report card comments section. In practice, some schools and teachers will only partly make the switch, with no firm guidelines on docking points for late work.
Parents and some students are more attached to traditional A through F grades based on every test score, quiz result and homework score than most teachers are, Casteel said. "There is a whole lot of emotion and politics we have to work through."
The requirement that all schools switch to grading students on academics grew out of a little-noticed state law that passed in 2011, House Bill 2220. Lead sponsor Rep. Peter Buckley, D-Ashland, said he intended it merely to allow -- not require -- districts to go whole-hog into grading students by what they know and can do, not how many hours they spend in class. No one testified against the bill or on its potential impact on school grading systems.
But the bill did refer to "all districts" and said grades must "clearly show the parent and student whether the student is achieving course requirements at the student's grade level and; be based on the student's progress toward becoming proficient in a continuum of knowledge and skills."
By the time a committee of educators and state Department of Education staff wrote the rules to put the law into operation, the rule said every course needed an only-academics, no-behavior grade starting this fall.
The rule will have little effect on elementary schools, which generally report academic performance and behavior separately already.
Some districts have been working to change their grading to a proficiency-based approach for years, while others are just starting and won't get there this year.
Forest Grove started six years ago and has become hard-core. No assignment can be docked points for lateness as long as it's turned in by the last day of the quarter, and any quiz or test can be retaken for a better grade throughout the term. Behavior, including meeting deadlines, can count for no more than 10 percent of the course grade.
The idea is to make grading more rigorous and push students to learn more, not to go easy on those who skip homework or score low on tests, said Forest Grove Chief Academic Officer John O'Neill.
Sure, students can get more time and extra chances. But if they fail to demonstrate mastery of even a single academic standard covered in the course, and most cover eight to 12 standards a semester, they fail the course. So every student needs to show they've learned every concept.
Forest Grove High, then its middle school, made the switch because they noticed that lots of students who earned B averages or better in high school scored below average on the ACT or SAT and landed in remedial classes when they got to college. They'd somehow passed their classes with flying colors -- but not mastered the key content.
"They were behaving, turning work in on time, making nice color brochures -- and those behaviors offset the lack of true knowledge and skills a student attained," O'Neill says. That no longer happens.
"They have multiple opportunities to redo their work and show improvement, but we have upped the rigor significantly."
Portland, Tigard-Tualatin and Reynolds are at the other end of the spectrum. Most of their schools and teachers are just starting to talk about the switch. Academics-only grading will be a work in progress, perhaps barely in progress, in many schools and classrooms, even by the end of the year, officials said.
Mount Tabor Middle School is ahead of the pack, Portland officials said. The school's Japanese, Spanish and science teachers no longer issue letter grades or dock points for late work. If a student is chronically late with assignments, teachers can meet with the student or parent, set targets or address it in other ways. Course grades reflect the student's proficiency in the language or in science.
But for most Mount Tabor teachers, that discussion is just beginning this fall, Principal Robi Osborn said.
"If you are trying to be pure about academic proficiency, the late-work conversation is a separate conversation. We are already having really meaty discussions about how is that all going to work. How are we still going to teach kids about deadlines and personal responsibility?"
Amy Wood, a middle school science and math teacher at Portland's Ockley Green School, said her colleagues are unsure how they'll comply with the law and were told they don't have to this year. Because she personally thinks it's the right way to go, giving students and parents more accurate information, she already separates academic performance from effort on weekly reports she send home.
"My philosophy has been that it's good to give parents information about whether their child is working hard and turning in work, but academically, they need to know, really, where their child is," Wood said.
Hillsboro's system is well-developed. The district adopted a rule a year and a half ago that academic proficiency would be the sole basis for middle and high school grades. Still, teachers have latitude to dock points for late work.
"It would depend on whether being on time with the assignment was considered an academic behavior or not," said Assistant Superintendent Steve Larson. "That is where the teacher's decision-making has to come in."
The Oregon Department of Education is taking a similar stance, with few bright lines on whether any approach breaks the rule.
The rule says students must receive an academic achievement-only grade in each course that is not based on any behavior. They can receive, but don't have to, a separate grade on behavior, and that grade can affect the overall grade.
"The biggest challenge for everybody is around what does behavior mean," said Rob Saxton, the state schools chief. "We can't define it down to the level everybody wants."
"Is late work a behavior? Or isn't it? And if you choose to say it isn't a behavior, what is late? Before the bell rang? 30 seconds after the bell rang? By the end of the week? By the end of the term? The district and/or the teacher have the right to make a decision as to whether or not that is behavior and how it would be counted. We cannot police that."
Some schools grade students on how they dress for P.E. or whether they bring materials to class, dock them 10 percent for every day an assignment is late and award significant points for how colorful and attractive science posters are.
Saxton said it would violate the spirit of the rules for schools like those not to change.
"What I would say is they would have a really hard time making the case that it's an academic standard," he said. "What do I know that this student knows? They have to issue a grade on that, purely on that."
-- Betsy Hammond
If you’re new to real estate investing, there is a term called “contract assignment.” If you have not come across this term or you are unsure of the intricate parts of contract assignment, I am going to spell it out. If need be, re-read this article again and again. Also do not be afraid to ask questions in the comment section below.
We are in the prime selling season in most markets. During this time, investors are normally busy trying to lock down as many properties as possible. In our market, Phoenix, we are seeing an influx of buyers looking for deals. I recently had a conversation with a group of investors looking to get their hands on almost anything that will generate a profit. It would seem that we have not learned from the previous market crash how the real estate climate can change in an instance. My philosophy is ride the storm and assign as many real estate deals as possible.
If you have sat through any get-rich-quick guru pitches, the majority of them will introduce contract assignment wholesaling, but without giving you all the steps involved. Here is what they are referring to when they say “make $5,000 in the next 60-90 days.”
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What is a Contract Assignment?
Short and simple. This is when you first find a property a seller is willing to sell significantly below market value. You then resell that property to another buyer, normally a real estate investor, at a higher price.
Can This Be Done?
Absolutely, I’ve done numerous transactions in Phoenix, although it is not as easy as it’s normally taught, however it is a proven real estate investment strategy with a very low barrier to entry.
How Exactly Does Contract Assignment Work?
1. Find a motivated seller.
First let’s begin with what a motivated seller is. This is an individual who NEEDS to sell a property normally very quickly. There is usually some sort of distress going on in their lives. There is a huge disparity between want to sell and need to sell. Knowing which category your seller falls into is the first step in identifying how to handle the situation.
If I want to sell, there is no since of urgency. There’s normally no timeframe in which to finalize the sale. However, “need to sell” sounds like this :”I have to sell this house now because I’m moving to Maryland to take care of my ailing mother, and I have no other family members in the area.” This is a “need to sell” scenario.
Meanwhile, “want to sell” sounds a lot different: “I’m curious to see what my house is worth because I may be selling next year.” As you can see, there is a reason behind the need to sell versus the second scenario, where there is just curiosity.
There are numerous ways to find motivated sellers, such as driving for dollars, newspaper ads, internet marketing, direct mail marketing, etc. If you begin to research real estate marketing, you will find many forms, but make sure you use a combination of multiple strategies.
Related:Wholesalers Get a Bad Rap — But They’re Essential to Investors for These 3 Reasons
2. Get the contract.
There are many assignment contract templates on the web; however, I make sure an attorney at least has laid his/her eyes on it and approves the document. There are two reasons this is so critical. First, you will have comfort knowing your document is legally sound. Second, you will be able to utilize that attorney as counsel in the event you find yourself in litigation.
There is critical verbiage that need to be added to your assignment contract “and/or assigns.” Why is this so critical? This verbiage authorizes you to re-trade the property to another buyer who is interested in the property. When you receive the signed contract, you now have equitable interest in the property and have some legal standing in what happens to the property.
To provide clarity to the seller if asked about the “and/or assigns” clause, I inform them that we buy numerous houses, and we often have funding partners that we work with. These partners ensure we have more than one set of eyes to run the numbers.
3. Submit contract to title.
This process may differ in each state, but there is normally either a title company or a closing attorney that will conduct a title search. The title search will check the historical records of the property to make sure there are no liens on the property. It is important not to sell a property with a defective title. The title company or the closing attorney is a independent third party hired to make sure the deal is fair as agreed upon in the contract.
4. Find your buyer and assign the contract assignment.
Here is another leg of marketing. Working to find your end buyer can be daunting, but once you have a solid buyer, you can begin the process of closing the transaction. First, when you find your buyer (via Craigslist ads, Zillow, email marketing etc.), you should require a nonrefundable earnest money deposit.
Having the buyer furnish an nonrefundable earnest money deposit secures your position in making a profit. This money will become yours whether the transaction closes or not. The earnest money can be as much or as little your require within reason. I’ve seen deposits of hundreds of dollars up to $5,000. When the buyer deposits the earnest money, you then know that your buyer has a real interest in the property and is willing to move forward. This fee is normally held by the title company or the closing attorney.
5. Get Paid!
This is what most of us want to hear. We get paid when the end buyer wires in the funds for the deal. This money will cover what you stated you were willing to buy the property from the seller for, as well as your fee for facilitating the transaction. As an example, if you told the seller you would buy the house for $45,000 and you then sold your interest in the property to the buyer for $50,000, then your assignment fee is $5,000.
Related:The Harsh Truth About Wholesaling Newbies Need to Know
It is important that everything is disclosed because I’ve seen transactions stall at the closing table due to the seller or the buyer does not agreeing with you as the assignor making money. Again, this is why you inform you seller specifically that you are going to make a profit; however, ensure them that they will still receive the amount agreed upon for the price.
It is standard practice that assignments are done only on profits of $5,000 or below. But if you are comfortable with the seller and the buyer, it’s possible to assign a contract for a much higher fee.
In the event you are not comfortable with all parties in the transaction, a double close or simultaneous close will keep both legs of the transaction anonymous. Be aware not all title companies will agree to conduct a double close, so this needs to be discussed in advance.
Contract assignment cannot be done on all transactions. HUD homes, REOs, and listed properties present many barriers when trying to perform this type of transaction. With many REO properties, the lender will ensure there is a seasoning period — normally 90 days — before you can resell the property.
As you can see, there are some clear benefits to contract assignment for big paid days.
Investors: Have you ever assigned a contract? Any questions about this process?
Let me know your thoughts with a comment!