Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Annualization of Classes

My school came up with a brilliant idea last year--annualizing all the students programs. This would make it much easier to program students for the spring term. What the powers that be did not take into account is that many kids pass the first term of Math A, afterall, they have been doing order of operations, signed numbers, and equation solving since elementary school. They run into major problems in the second half of the term, where the work is much more difficult. These students then fail and because of the annualization, must repeat the entire year from the beginning. They have lost an entire year. They are put in a class where they know most of the work because the hard stuff doesn't start until the spring. Often they become discipline problems or cut class. Even if they want to learn, many times they are in classes that the strongest teacher has trouble controlling. These kids are destined to fail. We need to go back to letting the students repeat the one course they fail. I used to think annualization might work in an English or history class where each topic taught is discrete and what you are learning doesn't necessarily depend on what came before. I only complained about annualization because I felt that the kids that knew nothing by January had no chance of succeeding in June. Math topics are not independant of one another. I wonder if a kid would have to repeat whole year in these subjects too? If that is the case, we must scrub this program.

This topic is especially important to me because I am teaching M&C this term. It is the third term of a four term sequence (ending in the Math A regents.) I have three students in my class that I know passed the first term and failed the second. They should go back and retake the class from the beginning, but I don't want to do this to them. I made the decison (with the help of a non math AP) to let them stay. If they pass, they will be given credit for the class they failed. I'm worried because if they fail, they will be another year behind and their graduation will be endangered. I hope I made the correct decision.

8 comments:

Jonathan said...

Math A has been crazy from the beginning. How many topics, how many terms of work? And all on one exam?

If they annualize at least they should keep the kids who've taken it before together in one class, so that the teacher can adjust. I bet they just mix everyone together though.

Pissed Off said...

That is the understatement of the year! A kid I passed in M&1 failed M&2. He is now repeating the entire year. What a waste for everyone!

Jonathan said...

Let's look at what the administrators think. The kids fail math repeatedly anway. A kid is just as likely to have failed for attendance or messed up stuff at home as for lack of ability. English 1 and English 2 are not a sequence. In Global, who cares if you do India before China. Once they have failed one class, it doesn't much matter as long as they take something.

Not everything there is 100% wrong. But most of it is. If a kid passed 1, failed 2, there is something going on in that head, some (perhaps minimal) mathematical ability.

If nothing special is getting done for that kid, then who really cares if they are thrown into 1, 2, or 3?

But these kids should be grouped together, so that a teacher can focus on what is going on, which will be different with that group than with freshmen.

Now, small schools have it much worse. They usually won't have the staff to support any off-track repeater courses. No room even for the conversation.

Chaz said...

Annualization was defeated in my school as the principal accepted the 142 to 2 vote againsr it. Interesingly the AP of Math agreed with us and the principal told the Region the results. Apparently the reason the Region was pushing annualization is that they wanted the teachers to teach during January Regents week. Did you have to teach that week?

Jonathan said...

It's not surprising that teachers are opposed. It is gratifying that some administrators are unwilling to go along with it.

The challenge becomes preventing the off-track classes from becoming dumping grounds for the most helpless students and the newest, most vulnerable teachers.

What could be done? Senior teachers could step up, but of course that would be voluntary. Administration could provide support in the form of curriculum modifications, extra attendence outreach, maybe smaller classes.

But I would not be optimistic for that in most large high schools. I certainly hope that new teachers get a full lesson in how to fill out a preference sheet and what rotation means.

Pissed Off said...

I've taught many off track classes with older students. You need a whole different approach with these kids than you do with younger ones. You need to get them to believe in themselves. Once they believe they can do well many succeed. I see no need to make these kids go back to the beginning when that is not what they need. Right now, I have 3 kids in my M&C class that I know passed M&A but failed M&B. We are gambling that they will be able to catch up and pass the regents and then be back credited for the class they failed. I just gave my first test yesterday. Two of them passed and the third one came close and I feel good about her ability to pass. All three understand the risks they are taking and are willing to go the extra distance to pass.

Jonathan said...

You know those kids. You have to go with the best bet. And, yeah, the older kids need to be handled differently. At my previous school working with the older kids with multiple failures was sort of my 'specialty.' I would go for a 'buy in' from these kids that sounds something like what you are talking about, and ride them hard to keep attendance up.

W Brown said...

I couldn't disagree with you more "pisssed off"

Annualization seems the only fair way to accurately asses student performance.