Monday, February 11, 2008
We work in a great school district. We have wonderfully supportive parents and a community that supports education. We have students that are eager to learn and put forth their best efforts on almost all occasions. Upwards of 90% of our students pass the state mandated tests. We have one of the highest performance index scores in the state.
Why worry now? Why change anything, when we are doing such a good job?
Well, dig a little below the surface data and you’ll find that we did not meet AYP in reading and that our initial data on Value Added was not as green or yellow as we would have liked.
While it is still important for a certain percentage of students in any grade level of subgroup to pass the OAT, the rules have now changed, and the criteria has been ratcheted up. Starting next year each student in the state of Ohio from grade 3-8 will need to show one year’s worth of growth. While the means of measuring this is still somewhat fuzzy to me (and I’ve tried to understand it) the fact remains that this important measure becomes public next year.
The fact that is becomes public worries administrators as it should, and it should worry teachers for other reasons. No teacher wants to be told that a student they were responsible for did not grow one year during a year of instruction as compared to “similar” students in the state of Ohio. Teachers put their heart and soul into their job and knowing that they failed a student even when measured by perhaps questionable means will nonetheless be upsetting.
So what can we do now, this very day to start working towards that goal?
We need to continue to define our own internal measures of student growth. For reading (and it is all about reading) we have basically two different types of measures that we need to be using. We need to be measuring a student’s ability with the various indicators. We have a great start on that with the QRA but we need more “in between” or even “before” measures. We need to see what our students already know/can do via pretests, we need to assess as we teach and record detailed results for each learner, we need to reteach when needed, and then we need to use the QRAs as the more summative measure.
But this isn’t the only type of reading measure. We need to use what many call a Curriculum Based Measure (CBM) which isn’t linked to the indicators. Rather it is linked to the overall skill of reading. Many schools do this thru the Dibels tool. Dibels is an oral fluency tool used mostly K-2 but they have norm referenced reading assessments that go thru grade 6. Aimsweb is another (for pay…Dibels is free) measure that not only makes uses of oral reading fluency but also tries to gauge some comprehension levels to help identify the student who reads fluently but has little idea what they’ve read. Countless studies have shown that stronger readers are more fluent readers.
Another benefit of using the CBM measure such as Dibels is that it would help us more easily or systematically identify students who need additional reading support since tests of this type fit nicely with the response to intervention method of identifying students. Dibels will also show more growth detail. For example, a student can show growth from one Dibels administration to another administration in as little as a week. The QRA might show growth...but not in the same detail and remember different content makes up each QRA test although some of the most important (ie context clues) are repeated throughout.
I hope to work with staff this quarter to put one or both of these measures into place in their classroom. The last step and this one may take the most time because I don’t think we are used to always doing it is to document what works best instructionally.
As we teach our content, sometimes modify our content, and then reteach our content we need to keep detailed records of what we tried, what worked, and what didn’t’ work. We need to share our results (both good and bad) so other teachers on our team can learn from each other. Over time we could build a resource of what works with various types of learners. The work is hard and time consuming but the payoff is huge.
I’m looking forward to being a part of that work.
In the spirit of growing our vocabulary I thought I would share this wonderful article published in the NY Times a few weeks ago. While these words aren’t necessarily in the dictionary quite yet, they still show us how the English language is always growing and morphing. Take a look at the article and you will not only learn a few new phrases and words…you’ll also get a chuckle on a few of these.
Try my simple matching quiz. Match the definition with the term or phrase listed below.
1) In military jargon, the site of an explosion, severe gunfire or a destructive engagement.
2) A person who eats no meat, uses no animal-derived goods and prefers not to have sex with non-vegans.
3) An odd or funny picture of a cat given a humorous and intentionally ungrammatical caption in large block letters
4) Employment discrimination against a woman who has, or will have, children.
5) No Income, No Job or Assets. A poorly documented loan made to a high-risk borrower.
A) maternal profiling
B) ninja loan
C) post-kinetic environment
You will have to read the NY Times to see how well you did. :)
Sunday, February 3, 2008
As you can see Reading Process makes up the majority of the points on the test and Acquisition of Vocabulary makes up (just barely) the smallest % of the points. Within RP, compare/contrast,summarizing, and drawing conclusions are big. Central ideas (sorry for the Excel typo) appear to be overwhelming the most tested indicator at 60% of the points for that standard. Within Literary text, main idea and characters account for close to 70% of the points for that standard. Context clues are the biggest indicator for Aquisition of Vocabulary. What does this all mean....it gives us some idea where to spend our most time getting ready for the test. Not that we forget the other indicators....we just want to really make sure the kids "get" these indicators and have experience answering them in the same format that the test uses. Too often the test format trips up a student when we know they know the content. A teacher may sometimes accuse another teacher of "teaching to the test" when they use a strategy like this. In Ohio, I'm not sure how applicable that is...since the test is the standards is our curriculum. So if you teach our curriculum you are teaching to the test....which is exactly what we should be doing. However, don't beat a dead horse...if you students have shown mastery in these indicators then it is time to move on and work on others. I will put the results of my grade 4 and grade 5 spreadsheet work up shortly.
We're Failing Our Kids
I've posted this before but to get a better idea of just what a Wiki is I would recommend that you watch this video.
I just starting reading Daniel Pink's A Whole New Mind. It
covers same of the same material that Friedman covers in the World is Flat. According to Pink there are three factors (abundance, Asia, and automation) are changing the way life is and will be in the future for citizens of the United States. He believes that in order to be successful in the future (not too distant) people will need to be right brained...that is creative, open minded, designer types. If this is the case (and when we will know?) then we as teachers need to remember to balance the mastery learning of NCLB with more open-ended assignments that get students using the right side of their brain. The Partnership for the 21st Century is basically asking our nation's schools to start trying to do the same thing. Their aim is to have students gain more collaborative, problem solving skills. There are only a handful of state department of education offices that have embraced 21st Century Skills. I would encourage you to look at them and see how they might fit/enhance the good things we already do.
If you still want to learn about the human body and don't want to look at polymer covered bodies then perhaps you might enjoy National Geographics online presentation on the human body. This one doesn't require the expensive parking since it is online.
National Geographic: Explore the Human Body