The Day of Reckoning

Yesterday, the students took my math test, and the results were not pretty. At the beginning of the summer, each student took a diagnostic test that looks almost exactly like the final, except with slightly different numbers. A tracking tool provided to us by TFA generated individual growth goals in math for each student, based on their diagnostic scores. These scores were meant to represent a big goal that would drive each class to significant progress.

I did not drive a single one of my students to meet their individual goal. My highest performing student scored only a 58% on the test. This accounts for 71% of the progress he was supposed to make toward his individual goal. My average progress toward the goal was 19%. One of my students actually made -2% progress.

Grading the tests was probably the most depressing event of the summer. It was almost physically painful to mark each individual question wrong, because every wrong answer represents something I wasn’t able to teach to mastery. On one particular category of questions, the class average actually decreased from the pre-test. I’m really not sure how I’m going to break it to them, or even if. Most of my students worked hard this summer, and I don’t want them to think that it doesn’t pay off, because in the end, they learned a lot, even if they didn’t master it all.

In my defense, there was one factor outside of my control that I believe had a massive impact on my students’ performance on my test, and that factor was that the district decreed that the students would have to take yet another standardized math test the morning of my exam, and my SMT told them that it was the one that mattered for them to pass summer school. The kids were blindsided. I read their answers on the free-response section, and the kids were nowhere close to prepared for it. I can only imagine how demoralizing it must feel to fail a math exam and then be asked to take another one an hour later. Some of my kids just put their heads down in the middle of my test in frustration and refused to finish. I couldn’t convince all of them to finish it.

As hard as it is to take, I’m not as emotionally depressed as the facts above might lead someone to believe. The numbers are damning, that’s for sure, and I do take a large amount of personal responsibility for my role in how badly the test went. But what’s done is done, and the most important thing I can do is know exactly what I need to change about my actions to lead my students to much higher levels of achievement in the fall. And that list probably merits its own very long journal entry. I’ve got a lot of thinking and planning to do in August.

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