Homework: American Studies and AT US will have regular homework reading. Public Policy has a little less of this. Some readings are in textbooks; others are handouts or readings posted to this website. Homework reading assignments will vary wildly in length. Some of them will be quite short, others longer. There will even be occasional days with no homework at all. Of course there will also be some essays and projects for you to complete.
Quizzes: Any homework assignment is eligible to be assessed through a pop quiz at the start of class. Over the course of a quarter there will probably be an average about one quiz per week, though some weeks there may be three and other weeks none. The good news: If you take notes on the reading you may use those notes while taking a quiz. This only applies to notes in your handwriting or which you typed. Photocopies or printouts of other people's notes, or highlighted versions of the actual reading, are not permitted; using them will be considered cheating.
Of course, you can only take a quiz if you are on time for class (or, if you are late, if you arrive in possession of a legal tardy pass from a teacher or administrator). By the way: teachers are allowed to give reading quizzes in any class, even during testing days for other departments, as these quizzes count as homework checks, not formal assessments. If you take more than four quizzes in a quarter, as will almost certainly be the case, then the lowest quiz score each quarter will be dropped.
If there are more than four quizzes and you receive perfect scores on all the quizzes in a quarter you will receive ten bonus quiz points, which can add a full point or more to your quarter average. Note, please, the word "all" in the previous sentence. You must be present for every quiz to qualify for the bonus; even a legal absence makes you ineligible for the bonus (although any quiz missed for a legal reason will, of course, not be counted in your quarter average). Attaining perfect scores may sound impossible, but several students—and not always the geniuses—achieve the bonus in at least one quarter each year.
Tests: There are usually two unit tests in each quarter. These tests will add up to about a third of the quarter grade. The format will vary from test to test, although they will usually consist of some combination of objective questions, identifications, and essay.
Papers: Unless otherwise stated, all papers are due by 10:00 PM on the date indicated. Most written assignments will be submitted electronically via turnitin.com. You should also review the late-work policy now, then return to this page to continue reading.
Grades: For American Studies and AT US each quarter counts for 20% of your grade for the year. These courses will have two final exams. The first-semester final will be given in January. It will cover all the work in the course up to that point, and after this exam I will not test you on that material again (although New York will; fortunately their exam is rather silly, and most of you won't need to study for it). The second semester final will be given during the fourth quarter testing days in early June. For AT US each of the two finals will count for 10% of your final grade. In American Studies each of the two finals will count for 7.5% of your grade for the year, and there will also be a badly written Regents exam that counts for 5% of your grade.
For Public Policy each quarter counts for 25% of your grade. There may be a final exam; there is no Regents.
For all classes, within each quarter each piece of work will be assigned a point value:
In each quarter you will have 10 or so reading quizzes for 100 points (although Public Policy will have fewer of these), a combination of papers, presentations, and projects (200-250 points), class participation (100 points), and two tests (200 points), for a total of about 600 points. When computing quarter grades I round off to the nearest tenth of a point: an 89.94 is a B+; an 89.95 rounds to 90.0 and is an A-. When computing grades for the course as a whole (the final, overall mark) I round to the nearest whole number: an 89.5 rounds to 90 and is an A-.
It is important to note that the large number of points devalues each one. If you are studying for a big math exam and you blow off the reading, the zero you get on a reading quiz will likely have no effect on your quarter grade. Of course, if you regularly get zeros, either through sloth or tardiness to class, that will cause a problem. Even larger papers have a limited effect on your quarter mark, unless the grade is wildly better or worse than the rest of the quarter's work. If most of your scores are within shouting distance of a particular number, as most students' work is in most quarters, any one assignment is far less significant than most students think it is.
One more word about grades: For a long time I have had a reputation as a difficult grader. I welcome that reputation, as I believe students should have to work hard to receive top marks. However, some people take this reputation too far, to the point that some arrive in my class in September with the belief that I am an "impossible" grader who "never gives As." This is not the case. Last year I taught four classes, each of which had four quarters. There wasn't a single quarter in which there wasn't at least one grade over 90% in every class; some classes had a lot more. If you are not getting an A, it is not because I do not give them; it is because you have yet to earn one.
Calendar: In American Studies and AT US we will follow the standard school calendar. In public policy the calendar will be quite different. Since Senior Options begins at the end of April, I think it makes sense to divide the quarters more-or-less evenly. Thus, for public policy only:
A Few Other Things You Should Know
1. I am mean to people who are late to class. If you are late more than three times in a quarter, each additional tardy is counted as a cut. In order to encourage prompt attendance, students who are not in the room by the time the bell announces the start of class are not permitted to take any quiz I might give that day. This means, of course, that if you are just seconds late on the day of a quiz you will receive a zero. [Note: if I am giving a double-value reading quiz, I may permit you to take it for a reduced score.] If another teacher causes you to be late, bring a pass.
2. I love my iPhone, and I use it all the time. It does not belong in class, however, so I turn it off or leave it in my office. If I see your phone—or if it makes a sound—in my class, may God have mercy on you; I shall have none.
3. Students—and especially seniors—are occasionally absent for reasons other than illness. With one exception (see the next paragraph), I'm cool with that. However, if you are going on a family trip, a school field trip, a college visit, or if you are observing a religious holiday, I expect to be notified a few days in advance so that arrangements for work can be made, if necessary. If you tell me about such an absence after it occurs (which sounds silly but has happened), you will not be permitted to make up missed work.
Although all classes are important, it would be unfortunate if you were to miss class on the day of a test. My best questions go on the test given in class on the appointed day; often there is a choice of questions. Make-up tests feature my second-best questions, and there is never a choice. If one is ill on a test day it is better to stay home and take the test when one is healthy. In other circumstances, however, it is always best to take the original test given in class. Please note that I am not at all sympathetic to people who miss class the day before or after a school vacation, and that I often give tests just before vacations in an effort to avoid assigning homework during time off (though I regret that this is not always possible in AT classes).
Note: If you are absent from school for any reason, including illness, you may not set foot in the building or attend any school activity that day, before, during, or after school. If I see you in school on a day when your name is listed as absent, woe betide you! Either you are sick, and you should stay home and get well, or you are not sick, in which case you should attend all your classes. Saying "I'm not here today," but then showing up to take a test (even one of mine) or attend a meeting is unethical, a violation of school policy, and a good way to find out what I am like when I am angry. A couple of years ago I had a nasty argument with a fine student—who I like a lot—because she was out sick but then showed up at 3:00 to take a make-up math test. Result: I yelled, she cried, and then she went home without taking her test. Follow the rules, and stay home when you are called in sick.
4. I take few things in life seriously: writing is one of those things, integrity another. Your student handbook includes a detailed description of the SHS policy on cheating. Please read it carefully, as you will be held accountable for any violations. In brief, cheating is:
a. Representing someone else's work, whether obtained from a student or a research source, as one's own, including test essays, creative work, and homework
b. Using unauthorized oral or written assistance on a quiz, test, or other assignment
c. Plagiarizing by failing to credit sources of language, ideas, or facts not generally known through correct use of citations, quotation marks, and bibliographies
d. Providing another student with the opportunity to cheat in one of the ways described above
To avoid plagiarism, please read the information on citations in the Citations document found on this website (you need not do this now). I will expect you to follow these instructions. When in doubt in any situation involving academic integrity, please ask me.
5. I am a biased grader. I am always more favorably disposed towards papers which follow standard rules of spelling, grammar, punctuation, and presentation. In general, if I have to correct more than one spelling or grammatical error per page I begin to lose patience. Take care with your presentation of written work.
6. All teachers offer their help after school, during free periods, etc. (if they do not, please complain about them to the proper authorities). I am no exception. Many students, however, are reluctant to take advantage of the help available. Please know that I enjoy meeting with students individually to discuss matters related to the course. Feel free to seek me out. I am available during most of my frees, after school at least two days a week (faculty meetings occupy two Monday afternoons per month, and I usually have Maroon obligations on Friday), and often before school. My schedule is posted on this website. Feel free to email me (although note that I probably go to bed before you do and am unlikely to respond to a message received after 10:00 PM until early the next morning). I want to help.