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Friday, June 28, 2013

Blog Posting #1 (sort-of)

OK, Sam.

Here goes....

I teach in a school which was identified as a failing school 5 years ago.  We were required to choose one of three options to turn around the school.  The options were to close, to become a charter, to fire half of the staff and try to fix things with new teachers or to remove the principal and try to fix things with the current staff.  The last option was chosen.

We implemented many new programs, brought in "experts" and had way too many meetings. Most of the staff were charged with improving reading scores, and the math department was alone tasked with working on math scores.  Grant monies funded many of the changes, but the programs had to be self-perpetuating once the money was gone.  Amazingly, our staff was able to create enough change to bring the school off of the failing list.

In math, we are still getting students woefully prepared for high school leveled mathematics and the current focus on all things Common Core leave me concerned that I am poorly preparing students for the kinds of assessments I have seen released by the major assessment groups.  I know the excuses, I've heard them, I've said them.  I also know that falling victim to them, again would be performing a disservice to the students I will be spending the next 180 days teaching.

I love the idea of standards based grading, but without identifying where the students currently are and performing mathematical triage on their current deficiencies it doesn't make sense.  Also, I think the idea of interactive notebooks and helping the students feel more engaged with their interaction with mathematics seems like a winner too.  This becomes 3 major goals/changes to my current teaching.  I'll admit the prospect is daunting.  I wish someone else at my school was performing the same kind of self-reflection.

I've started by writing a skills assessment, for use at the very beginning of the school year.  In order to make it easier to evaluate, I want it to be graded by data director (assessment analysis software).  I also want to require students to show work on all problems, and I want these tests to serve as a starting point to helping students see their strengths and weaknesses.  Setting up this assessment in Data D has proven to be more difficult than I would have thought as clusters and standards are cumbersome to set up.

I hope to eventually share my thoughts on SBG and how I see Interactive Notebooking working with how we have broken up Algebra2 with regard to common core and perhaps even receive feedback from others further along each of these processes.  But I will save that for another day.


  1. Kudos on your first post! You are definitely not alone - tweet regularly, and you'll get great support. :)

    Jen (@jensilvermath)

  2. Wow! lot's of decisions and lots of work done. Congrats!

    I hope I will be teaching a bit of Algebra 2 in the fall...we use Data Director too. I used interactive notebooks last year for Algebra 1 and felt pretty good about it. I came up with a pretty easy and not over-burdening way of grading them.

    Self-reflection is what I am talking about, baby! And like Jen mentions, you are not alone.

  3. Sorry I missed your post before! Glad to have found it when going over old tweets.

    I am with you on trying SBG and IN. It feels like a lot, but I am SOO excited! Glad to have you as part of my online PLN, I know you are working on great things for your students.