Teaching Data

I'm going to be very transparent here so please don't attack me.

At the end of last school year, I wrote down what the last concept I taught and assessed was for each class period. Here are the results:

1 Hr Geometry Concept 28
3 Hr Geometry Concept 28
4 Hr Algebra I Concept 25
5 Hr Trig Concept 28
6 Hr Algebra II Concept 21
7 Hr Algebra I Concept 21
8 Hr Algebra II Concept 20

How is it that in an entire year I only teach 20-28 concepts? That's 5-7 concepts per quarter which translates to about one concept per week or week and a half. That's terrible. And pretty consistent across all content areas.

Maybe it's the kids? Let's look at the current data for the first quarter.

1 Hr Geometry Concept 7
2 Hr Trig Concept 9
3 Hr Algebra I Concept 6
4 Hr Geometry Concept 7
5 Hr Algebra II Concept 6
6 Hr Algebra II Concept 6
8 Hr Algebra III Concept 6

Multiply those by four quarters and that puts me in the range of 24-36.

So it's not the kids.

Let's look at my teaching. Ideally, I introduce a topic through INB pages/lecture and then a handout/activity that pertains to the notes. Ideally, that means 2-3 days per concept. Which means I should be a lot closer to 50-60 concepts per school year.

I have only done INBs since last year. Let's look at some data from pre-INB

Algebra II Concept 39
Geometry Concept 40

Algebra I Concept 44
Geometry Concept 45
Algebra II Concept 46

I am getting worse over time.

Let's look at some other curriculums. I was recently introduced to the site http://emathinstruction.com that is aligned to Common Core and PARCC standards. Algebra I has 100 lessons. 100! That doesn't even allow for 2 days per concept. Algebra II is 107.

Engage NY Algebra II has 120 lessons and Algebra I has 105.

I am not even teaching 1/4 of what students need to know. But how are students supposed to master concepts in one day?

I have really been downing myself about this for pretty much my whole teaching career. This is the first year I have been able to back it with data but...I am not preparing my students for their futures.

Here are some possible causes:
  • I'm assessing too much. I quiz over every concept and a unit test.
  • Interactive Notebooks are slowing me down. 
  • I'm taking up too much class time with bell ringers.

Now what are the possible solutions?


Becoming a Whole Person

This is year seven of teaching for me and year one of feeling like a whole person.

Over the summer, me and my sister started trying to lose weight together: working out, walking together every day, drinking half our body weight in water, taking weight loss supplements, and buying Fitbits to track our steps and calories.

I also started my own business with the amazing skincare company Rodan and Fields which has opened up a whole new community of people for me to be a part of, new goals for me to accomplish, and new dreams for me to dream.

This school year I have also been posting daily over at the #onegoodthing blog.

So even though I have five preps, one of which is new, a cheerleading squad, and the largest Student Council club I've ever had, it feels like the first year of me being a whole person.

It sounds crazy that adding more and adding new things to my life has made me feel better- but it's true.

Now a bad day at school isn't the end of the world. I focus on the positive things that happened and write about it. After school I go walking and forget about it.

Instead of eating junk food to feel better, I'm tracking my calories to see what I should and shouldn't eat and obsessively checking if I have changed positions in our FitBos group.

Knowing that my whole life doesn't just revolve around teaching helps me not to put so much stress and pressure on myself when things go wrong. It helps me not feel stuck or trapped, it helps me feel happy and content, knowing that there is more to life than the four walls of my classroom.

I am a whole person with interests, hobbies, goals, dreams, and a life. Recognizing that makes me a better person and better teacher. It reminds me that my students are not just consumers of math, but people with interests, hobbies, goals, dreams, and a life. They are on their way to becoming a whole person- and how can I help?


Teaching Tips

I know my title isn't very descriptive but they are are so random that 'tips' is the best I can think of. These are basically things I've just discovered this school year; I'm just excited that I have new tips that I haven't already blogged about.

For the last several years, whenever I make a handout, I also make a matching powerpoint so that students see the same thing on the board as on their paper. And every now and then making these show up and disappear and slide around when necessary. This year I've had trouble with my SMART board letting me write on powerpoints. My tech person found that you can click print on the powerpoint file and select the SMART Notebook Writer (which apparently automatically installs when you install the SMART software) it will copy all of your slides to a notebook file (one slide per page) automatically. I've been using that for the first month or so until I realized, why create a powerpoint at all? I can just print the handout directly to a notebook file and cut out creating a powerpoint file that I can't even use? Duh Ms. Miller.

As much as I love being organized, I've need been able to keep up with a planner. I have a really good memory and it'll be real bad when it starts to fail me. But of course as a teacher, I always have a million things to keep track of. I'm a big fan of post-it notes but they flutter away pretttty easily. My solution thus far (although I am VERY intrigued by bullet journaling) has been email. I start a new email to myself at the beginning of the day basically making notes of things I need to do and also a note of what I plan to do and need to make for each class period. My plan is seventh hour so I accomplish some of the to-do things and sum up what must be done for the next day. Then I just e-mail it to myself so it's on my phone and laptop when I get home. Then I can use the e-mail to start the next day or else I write myself a new one so I know what I need to print and copy.

Another thing that I can't believe I just thought of is my Excel file of curriculum notes. I created a tab for each course (color coded obvi) I have and then headings for each unit. Then as I notice or think of things while teaching, I add them to my notes. These are things I want to change or redo or add to- not really things like grammar or spelling because I try to fix those asap. Since this is the first time I've done this (duh) my plan is to use that this summer to actually be productive in a specific way. And maybe for the first time, not reinvent the wheel. And if I can't get right to the Excel file, I just type it in my email so I remember to do it later.

If you've read my blog for any amount of time, you've probably noticed that I LOVE SORTING. What I've finally realized this year is that when you notice students struggling with something, especially something that seems simple to you, a need has just been created for a sort. One example for me has to do with functions. Students could not seem to tell the difference between f(10) and f(x) = 10, knowing when to plug in and knowing when to solve. Just like that, I knew that next year I needed a sort to keep this confusion from happening. And I just add that to my cute little Excel file.

Consider yourself tipped off.


Rethinking Grading: Ch. 5

Chapter 5: How to Reform Grading: Making Change Happen
Cathy Vatterott

Changes need not be grandiose to have a huge effect on student learning or to improve the accuracy and validity of student grades.

We must decide what we believe about the purpose of grading.

If they believe the purpose of grading is to accurately reflect achievement, then it becomes inconsistent to punish behaviors such as cheating, tardiness, or attendance with grades.

If an individual teacher believes the purpose of grading is to reflect academic achievement only, they could begin by removing nonacademic behaviors from the grade, by no longer grading practice work, and by giving more ungraded formative feedback.

When we agree on purpose, methods follow purpose.

Lesson learned:
One. Start small.
Two. Let it grow.
"Teachers need time to grieve the loss of what they thought was right."
Three. Include all stakeholders.
Four. Create a belief statement or guiding principles.
five. Have a comprehensive communication plan.
Six. Make students and teachers your allies.

When implementation is top-down with no teacher by-in, there's often a limited understanding of the changes and no commitment to the mission. Teachers notoriously find ways around policies they had nothing to do with creating.


Rethinking Grading: Ch. 4

Chapter 4: What, How, and When to Grade
Cathy Vatterott

Pre-tests set the stage, shave instruction for all, and guide individual learning. After the pre--testing process, formative assessment provides feedback to students while they are still learning; summative assessment shows the level of mastery at the end of the learning cycle.

Most teachers of you and formal feedback and formative assessment as two different things. It's easier to think of formative assessment as structured tasks designed by the teacher, results of which may be marked or documented in some fashion, so students and parents can have a record of the students progress toward the learning targets.

Feedback is a two-way recurring conversation between teacher and student.

For teachers to be able to give feedback to students, it is necessary to limit direct instruction enter create activity-based lessons.

All feedback does not have to come from the teacher; peer feedback can also be useful.

As we get targeted feedback to individual student and as they are empowered to learn in their own way, the differences in learners become smaller.

If, after repeated attempts, a student or group of students has failed to master a learning target we must take a fearless inventory of our instructional process and ask yourself these questions;
What's their level of learning properly diagnosed with pretesting?
What's the feedback about learning timely specific and helpful?
Did our differentiation move the student or group of students forward?

Using the result of a pre-test, feedback, or formative or summative assessment, teachers can identify patterns in the students work or clusters of student need. Students can then be organized into two or more groups for ungraded group learning the activities at each table are based on the errors that students made on the form of assessment.

In a purely standards-based grading system, only summative assessment counts in the final grade.

Typically formative assessments are evaluated and descriptive feedback is given to the learner, such as with practice tests.

Ungraded practice tests are especially beneficial to learn as they Activate "retrieval learning" and strengthen the connections in the brain.

One technique for practice test is called "find it and fix it." Rather than marking the answers that are incorrect, the teacher notes to the student, "five of these are incorrect; find them and fix them". This requires a student to reengage with the questions and precipitates a lot of learning.

Mastery checks: these assessments are written using three levels: green, yellow, and red. The green level questions are basic skill problems and didn't really require only one or two steps to solve. Yellow level questions require multiple steps and or multiple ideas to solve. The red level questions are generally questions of the students have never seen before, requiring them to go beyond knowledge they have obtained and\or apply the knowledge to a new situation. Students are expected to attend all three levels of questions. Their answers help the teacher to determine the students his level of mastery.

The current consensus is that homework should be formative assessment the checks for understanding or that helps prepare students for summative assessments. Therefore, and I truly standards-based system, homework should not be graded. Standards-based policies usually state that homework will be reviewed and feedback will be given, but not counted in the grade.

The final achievement of learning is more important than the steps it took to get there.

Formative assessment is assessment for learning and occurs when there is still time to improve. Summative assessments are assessment of learning that occur the end of a predetermined learning cycle, after learning has taken place.

How in assessment is used is what determines whether it is formative or summative.

Students who eventually achieve mastery should not be penalized for earlier struggles.

The most recent evidence of learning is the most accurate and grades should be replaced by the most recent evidence.

Student should never be allowed to retest without showing additional evidence that they have mastered the concept that caused him to do poorly on the original assessment.

Remember that our goal is to minimize the number of retakes a student needs to show mastery.

We want to hoops to result in additional learning, not just for students to complete missing work.

Feedback is free help-there is no grade or Mark associated with feedback.

Formative assessments give students multiple opportunities to improve, free from the threat of grades while they are still learning, and summative assessments verify and report their learning progress.