The Ebb and Flow

As I alluded to in my last entry, I’m really starting to pick up on major changes in some of my students.

One girl started the year barely attending school at all. When she was present, she could barely keep her mouth shut. She showed little-to-no effort in her work. Then she started showing up consistently, and being a consistent thorn in my side. I had to throw her out of most tests and quizzes for disruption. Most days, she didn’t do a lick of work, and she was really dragging down one of my best students, who idolized her for being the class clown. Then I started dedicating part of my walk-around time to really working with her one-on-one. As it turned out, she was way more capable than she was letting on. I think like a lot of my students, she lacked confidence and would rather not try and fail than try, fail, and look stupid. I complimented her for doing better work. As the semester went along, I tried to devote some time to getting her started on her work. By the end of the semester, things hadn’t turned around completely, but she was doing some of her classwork, attempting to take test and quizzes, and refraining from disrupting class most of the time.

I can name a whole bunch of other students who have shown similar turnarounds. Most of them no longer act like they hate being there. Although I’m happy with the direction of these students, unfortunately, many of them are still going to fail their first semester of Algebra I. I hope that it’s not going to be too discouraging, but they need to understand that you can’t piss away most of a semester, put in average effort, and still pass the class. They’re starting to learn how to work, but they’re going to need to learn just how hard that work needs to be to succeed. The HSA test at the end of the year is going to show them no mercy, and neither will I. So the challenge for me this new semester is figuring out how to take these from walking in the right direction to sprinting.

I’m slightly excited about next week. My student are going to take the NWEA, a standardized exam for measuring overall math abilities. They took the test for the first time this past Fall, and it indicated that I’m teaching students ranging in math ability from 2nd grade, all the way to 10+. The 9th grade average performance is on-par with the average American student halfway through 5th grade. The Algebra I HSA is a tough test. Needless to say, it’s almost audacious to expect that all 100 of my students will grow enough pass. However, if I can push them to make more than a year’s worth of growth in math, at least they are on track to catch up with their peers.

The big goal for my class is to grow an average of 2 years in math ability. A tiny handful of my kids have already maxed out the scale, and a couple are on the low end and probably haven’t moved much, but I think there’s a big chunk of kids in the middle who will hopefully show some major gains. I’m looking forward to (hopefully) seeing some good numbers on academic growth for the 1st semester.

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