Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Mar 20 2007

Significant gains for me but not for my kids

As I ran the scantrons of the third quarter assessment through the machine and heard the click click click of wrong answers I felt as if my recent improvements in mood have been a little unwarranted.
A number of little things have happened in the past week that made me feel like I was finally an okay teacher. One student wrote for the yearbook inspiration page that I inspired him because I was so smart and funny and always encouraged him. Another mom sent me an email thanking me for my concern for her son. He told her that my Pre-Calculus class actually makes sense and she said he actually enjoys doing his math homework for the first time. My administrator gave me better evaluations and my program director for Teach for America is excited to share positive things she is seeing in my classroom. The mentor teachers at Cheyenne asked me to be a part of a first-year teacher talk for them because they said I have grown more than any other teacher at the school. My Pre-Calculus kids think that matrices are easy and are actually seeming to comprehend some linear algebra topics related to systems of equations, determinants, inverses and how all the topics are connected. They scored over 80 percent on their systems of equations test and could do that well on matrices.

All this made me feel like things are getting under control, then there is the reality of the third quarter assessments. We were supposed to have covered exponents and factoring by now and were asked to give a test on it. We have not even finished solving systems of linear equations. I warned my students that some parts would be new and difficult but they still had hope. Some were even banging down my door this morning to see what they got. The girls averaged 31% and the boys 27%. Random chance would put them at 25% on the multiple choice test. There were some questions that over half the class answered correctly, but it was hard to make that sound exciting while passing their tests back. One girl asked if the district would be upset with me for doing a bad job teaching. I said that they wouldn’t and that I attribute the failure to a number of things. I told them that they started the year behind where they were supposed to be. I honestly told them that they should have mastered fractions and negative numbers years ago. We still work on negative numbers every day and some of my smarter students know this shouldn’t be the case. I attributed part of the failure to myself and part of it to them. I asked them if they had gone to tutoring like I suggested so many times, or come in for help with me. The girls who had the highest scores in the class (around 50 %) told me that they thought they were smart but now they felt stupid. I explained that there was no way for them to know all the topics we just hadn’t gotten to because we were slowed down so much first quarter. I told the kids that we are doing better and that we can catch up but I know we can’t catch up 30 percent to 80 percent in the quarter that remains. I do want to give the test again after I teach exponents and hopefully things will go better.
I wish that my tracking system was better. I wish that I could more concretely show the students progress. The fundamental boys did well on a quiz on solving equations and one boy insisted they did well because it was easy and that he had always known how to do it. I told him that he didn’t at the beginning of the year and he told me he’d bet me 20 dollars that he did. If only I’d had tracking in place I would have won $20 and also been able to show the kids progress instead of a classroom full of failed tests.

One Response

  1. Ms. Math

    Sigh. Those goddamn tests. The poor girl who got 50% right and thought she was doing okay before. I just don’t have the answer to this conundrum because I couldn’t suggest giving out really easy tests, or giving easy tests to failing schools. Just depressing.

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Learning more about life than math…

Las Vegas Valley
High School

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