I’m up late trying to get my 3rd quarter grades in order, since they are due tomorrow. I can’t really whine about that, because I put myself in this boat. But part of the reason I’m up so late is because I’m so backlogged on test grading. Besides fatigue and procrastination, part of the reason for this is that grading tests is about as enjoyable as having my teeth drilled (or so I would imagine).
Grading tests is so discouraging. Test and quiz scores in my classes generally average about 30-40%. And this is considering the fact that I let them use all of their notes on the quizzes, and the tests are designed to look exactly like what they did on their homework and classwork papers. On most of my tests, almost all of the answers can be found by looking elsewhere on the test. On some portions, I provide a guided walkthrough of the steps to solve a problem. The students are provided calculators. I work with kids after school. We grade and discuss quizzes in class. We review all the unit concepts the day before the test. I pass all my tests along to the special educator for suggestions on how to modify them so that my IEP students get their required accommodations, and so she can administer the test to her students. She teaches the students who are pulled out for math, and sometimes adds additional work for her IEP students on top of my test.
I just don’t know what my students are learning if they’re stumped by the most basic problems on the test. I’ve received bright students who have transferred in from other schools, and watched their performance decline while they are in my class. My NWEA scores in the winter were lower than my scores for the summer. It is awfully hard to find the motivation to keep planning detailed lessons and synthesize my own lesson materials when my lessons clearly just aren’t reaching my students. I had one of my better students in one of my classes get frustrated when I wouldn’t come over to help her right away and tell me, “That’s okay, I don’t need your help anyway. Everything I learned in Algebra, I learned from my teacher last year.” I get lots of comments like that all the time, 99% of which I pay no mind. But in cases like that, I feel like there’s some truth to it.
I know I’ve figured a lot of things out of the course of the year, and I know plenty of very specific things I still need to improve. I’m working on them, but I just don’t feel like it’s coming together in time for the kids I have now. And I know it’s probably not all just my instruction. I think A-day/B-day was awful for the students. I also think the vastly differing math levels of students in my class made reaching everybody all the time pretty much impossible, when I only have a tiny handful of students who can truly work indpendently. We switched to the new schedule today, and I’m hoping I’ll notice a major difference.
I’m just really worried that despite all the blood, sweat and tears I’m putting in, and despite all the sacrifices everyone on the team is making, we might still have less than 10 students pass this test. I’m still banking on the fact that it’s going to come out better than that, but I don’t have a whole lot of evidence to lead me to think so.
It’s a lot harder to believe people when they tell me I’m doing even a halfway decent job when the data right in front of me says that even my some of my very best students are totally missing the mark. I guess all I can really do at this point is keep fighting, and pray that things start clicking for the students big time before the HSA.
Tomorrow is going to be rough. If I’m lucky, I might be able to catch 3 hours of sleep tonight.