Monday, December 14, 2009

Just Thinking


I'm sitting here watching my evening class take their final exam in the college algebra class I taught this semester. I have twenty bodies in front of me which is not so bad. I started the semester with 26. Losing only 7 in a class like this one is pretty good. Some of these kids have not done so well all semester but I am really hoping that they manage to pull out a decent grade on this test so I can pass them. They find math tedious and hard and for some it can be the one thing that keeps them from getting a degree. And, that is what brings me to the point of this posting.

Today I sat and helped a few of last year's geometry students with the intermediate algebra and trig class they are taking and what I saw broke my heart. One teacher actually took off points for kids who used pencil. She told them she is preparing them for the regents but by taking off points for such trivia now, they will never get to the regents. These kids aren't the strongest math students to begin with and they can't afford to lose points for this. I also saw exams which consisted of mostly multiple choice questions. Each one of those multiple choices were worth 5 points and kids ended up failing because they made careless mistakes, not because they did not know how to do the work. Out of the five kids I helped, maybe one will make it through the class and the regents yet all five understood the work well and would be able to pass the class if it wasn't so regents geared. These kids will probably end up being dropped from the trigonometry class in January. Heaven forbid a teacher not have passing statistics of 90% or more.

A study showed that most kids are not ready mathematically for college. These kids are capable of learning the math they need to be able to succeed in college. They need the head start a good high school education can give them. They need the slow pace a high school teacher can follow in comparison to that of a college professor. They are motivated. They are bright. Not everyone has to be a math star to succeed in life. The system is going to hold them back. The system is going to take them from the class they need and throw them into some other, easier class, a class that does not terminate in a regents, a class that failing or passing will not make the school look bad.

I wanted to teach this new trig class. Mr. AP did not let me. He knew I would not drop anyone out. He knew my stats would be the worst ones in the department again and I would be the one to bring the school down. He knew I have always and will always put the kids first. He might think that working in a NYC high school makes it impossible to always do what is right for the students. He has the power and the voice to do something but statistics are the most important thing around. we've got to keep that "A". Anyone who gets in the way will be hit with the giant demolition ball. I don't agree and I will fight him on this issue until the day I leave.

8 comments:

kherbert said...

I'm confused. She took off for them using pencil? I was never allowed to use pen in math. They are supposed to use pen?

Sounds like my Computer Science teacher - who opened class by suggesting that all the girls were in the wrong room - because this was a computer class.

I was one of 2 girls that stuck out the whole year. I earned a 100 average the 2nd semester. (1st semester the boys go to use the computers 1st and all the girls lost points for late work, when often we got to use the computers after the due date).

On my 2nd semester final he
1) Made me take the full final that the underclassmen had 3 hours to take, and I had 1 hour because of the senior schedule.

2) tried to take off points for flaws in the paper that he gave me. I suggested a visit with the principal and my grade level principal - I quickly got my full credit.

Pissed Off said...

Yes, she clearly deducted points for using a pencil. I don't remember how many, but the word pencil was written next to the point deduction on more than one paper.

Ms. Take said...

Either this teacher's an abject moron, or extremely anal. I don't care how well she does math or manages her classes. If the kid's doing the math correctly, it shouldn't make a difference. OK so they'll write in pen on the REGENTS. Someone in the process of learning the material shouldn't be penalized for such petty utter nonsense on a class exam. A reminder should be sufficient!!

Pissed Off said...

It's not the teacher--it is my crazy AP making everyone crazy about stats.

mathman42 said...

I have them use pen and cross out, not erase or use white out. I have pens available on test days. Otherwise answers can be changed after you return the test. It's also usually neater. Most score so lower deduction is meaningless. Generally 40 % OF possible points is passing. ( Regents questions )

Pissed Off said...

In my school 65% out of 100 is passing, 64% is not!

mathman42 said...

If I required 65/100 without a curve we would have been closed years ago. The regents sure doesn't.

jd2718 said...

Similar. 27. 19 at the final (which I am grading now...)