Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Fall Cleaning

What do you do when you fear your value as a teacher depends entirely on your statistics? You simply arrange to transfer the students who might mess up your stats to another class? Not easy to do, you say? Depending upon what you are teaching, it might be easier than you think.

Packemin HS offers its ninth graders the chance to take integrated algebra in 4 terms or in two terms. I haven't quite figured out how the guidance counselors determine who goes where as my four term kids have eighth grade assessments ranging from 1 to 4, with 3 as a mode. I'm not sure anyone knows So, to help the process, we gave assessment tests. On top of this, we gave class tests, submitted the data and presto, the kids were moved around. Ten of my four termers left to go into the two term course and I know I am inheriting many of the two termers tomorrow.

I really don't get the entire process. Kids who got in the high seventies on my first test were moved into the fast track. A girl from the two term asked to take the test today and she scored a 92.

While I don't know much about the eight grade assessments, I know that they create a uniform standard, a standard that is accepted though out the state. The assessment test we gave showed nothing. Some kids had calculators, but many did not (and the scores showed it.) My first test might have been easier or harder than someone else's exam. No comparisons were made.

I'm happy the brighter kids were moved. I would have done it differently, but they should be in the better class. Unfortunately, they were not consulted and hit with the change when they walked in the building. It is really the other kids I am more concerned with. Kids coming form middle school are just adjusting to a new building and a new way of doing things. Their first exams might not be indicative of how they will do in the class yet, because of the fear of being labeled a poor teacher due to statistics, these kids are being dumped and they will never be able to get through four years of real math.

So here I am doing what I do best, bitching about the system. I am really lucky to have the four term group because I am sure if I had the two termers I would have kept them all, statistics be dammed. I refused to dump my geometry kids last year and my stats took a beating. My teaching value has been devalued because of this (as I am reminded at every departmental conference.) I don't care. If my work load ever lightens, I am going to look up the five or six kids I had to drop and see what happened to them. I talk to one of them all the time and he has yet to pass a math class. More teachers would be willing to keep them if they weren't so worried about the stats.


mathman42 said...

8 th Grade tests are excellent for really judging understanding. I have given them several packets of open ended problems from 7 and 8 grade tests and I canreally see what they know. Unfortunately many truly understand little. My AP insisted that I give a mult choice test basically just to group them in class. ( Don't get me started ). I told them to only answer the question if they felt they could eliminate at least two of the four choices. It's 11:30 and I haven't gotten up the fortitude to look at the tests yet. I give it to the other 9 grade group manana.
I hate wild guessing on tests ( unless I'm taking them ).

We're doing effectively 3 terms in two by giving them extra periods. I think a straight three term is better, and three more for geometry ( really do it right using sketch pad and some practical apps. ) G' luck. Stop worrying so much, you'll need a new epitaph.

Pissed Off said...

I like the idea of extra periods better than three terms. The kids forget everything over the weekend and after the summer it is even owrse.

I'm not worrying, just pissed, because so many kids are going to get screwed just to save a few stats.

I just found out I may be losing my algebra class and that has me ready to kill. I sent e-mails to principal, chapter chair and my AP. I hope things don't resort to a really nasty post here.

Anonymous said...

Even with "ARIS" elementary schools still give their own assessments in math and reading in early September. The tests are uniform so each grade gives the same tests and usually comes from a test-prep book that measures the basic concepts as well as problem-solving. And, it's probably more balanced than the state tests. It's amazing how their State scores differ from the assessments.


Pissed Off said...

Believe me, the assessment test we gave was not balanced and a terrible indicator of what the kids know and can do.

mathman42 said...

An assessment, benchmark, or diagnostic ( whatever you want to call it ) should be openended so you can see what they know and how they do the work. You can incorporate a lot in 6 to 10 problems. The issue unfortunately is that many give up and do nothing on the test. Maybe a piece of candy for every three lines of work ?

I was forced to give a test that had many questions almost no one could answer. Even a few teachers struggled.