Thursday, July 22, 2010

Interested in thoughts on the "Common Core" (Common State Standards)

So I just got back from a lunch with a coworker that has hooked me into blogging about school and we share a lot of the same ideas on education and the going ons in the classroom (Yes Stacy, I'm talking about you).  One thing she brought up that I have not formed an opinion on is the Common Core movement.  I don't know if it is just because I am currently more concerned with my new upcoming class or if it's because I like to stay out of the politics of education (I just want to teach and work with kids) or if it is because my state, Texas, is not participating in creating the standards. 

I am curious as to other people's opinions, especially those that are not from Texas.  Do you know what your state is going to do with the standards?  Will everyone be giving the same assessments eventually?  I understand the move to common standards is a beneficial one and will *fingers crossed* keep all the states at the same level and prevent some states from "dumbing down" their standards so they don't get in trouble with NCLB.  I would just like to hear everyone's thoughts.  As a math teacher I feel like math doesn't change much from one state to another and it is rigid in the order that things need to be taught.  I would love to hear everyone's thoughts and opinions.

On an interesting note along with this only Texas and Alaska aren't participating in creating the standards, but Virgina is helping create them but they have already made it clear they will not adopt them.  Interesting...

Friday, July 9, 2010

Ideas and Plans so far

The high school I work at is one of the newest Marzano schools. I honestly don't know if that means anything to you guys out there in blogger-land but my principal keeps saying it's something that many people will know about and recognize. The ideas of Robert Marzano (who we fondly refer to as Bobby Jesus at times) are not new to me as my last school district embraced them and was slowly moving us down the path he presents and suggests from his work and studies.

Towards the end of the school year last year as a math team we began writing our proficiency scales to attempt to begin to slowly implement the ideas of standards based grading (sbg) in our curriculum. Of course when I started reading about all of this I got super excited, started reading ahead in the book series and said "this is what's going to make a huge difference in my Keys to Math class!" (That's my name for my TAKS math class - TAKS is our state mandated test for those not in Texas).

Shortly after the end of the school year I was honored to attend a Professional Learning Communities (PLC) conference (in Vegas) with some coworkers where I was the annoying attendee that went up to half of the presenters after their sessions, praised them for their lecture and then asked if I could email them for some of their additional resources and tools from their school.

What have I done with all of these ideas churning in my head since then until now? Well the ideas are still churning in my head :)

This is the first summer I have had off and not taught summer school in 3 years or so. Hence being a bum and laying around while taking multiple trips to the beach (one of which I am currently on) has been one of my main focuses.

But once I get back in 3 days I will be sitting down and working & planning for at least 2 hours every day (along with working out more and cleaning my apartment from top to bottom).

But regardless, where was I going with this? Oh, my plans so far. On the first day of school I will be handing my students:
- Syllabus with classroom policies
- Topics (TEKS) which we will be covering and they will be tracking their own progress
- Proficiency scales that I will be grading them on (hopefully)

From studies I have read and personal experiences I find that when you tell the students up front what you want them to know and accomplish and at what level from day 1 they do much better.

Now what exactly my first lessons are going to be, uh yea....

I know they are not going to be a traditional "you are going to take this pre-test. Please do the best you can, yada yada yada..." I plan to assess my students current abilities at the beginning of the school year using an informal formative assessment where working with a partner is permitted (Especially since I know not everyone's brain will be on and functioning). I do also have their results from the bleeping TAKS test broken down by objective. I have already crunched numbers on all the sophomores and juniors whom failed the TAKS test, have ranked the overall performance of the whole from the weakest objective to the strongest. But of course everyone is different, not to mention all of the different programs the students are going to be in! (Special Ed, 504, ATLAS-well maybe not the last one, that's just a whole 'nother can of worms)

I think right now I'm just trying to get all of these ideas out of my head so I can hopefully get maybe another 30 minutes of sleep or so before the rest of the people on this beach vacation wake up.

Anyway, happy summer and happy teaching!

What is this one about?

Why am I adding to the multitude of blogs out there about teaching you ask?

As of this upcoming school year I am going to be teaching a remediation math class to students that are struggling with passing our state mandated test to graduate. We only have about 3 more years (I believe) of this test as a graduation requirement before Texas moves to using an end of course exam requirement (STARR).

As well as the new class that I have to teach, which has no set scope and sequence or mandatory tests (so excited about that!) I am attempting to implement Standards Based Grading with this class. As of my last conversation with my AP I will have 2 sections along with my Geometry classes and I am being given free reign to experiment with ways to make these students feel successful and help them to finally pass this bleeping test.

Just a quick side note- when I was in high school (not that long ago) and I had to take our then skills based test (TAAS) required and they took away my calculator I failed the adding and subtracting portion of the exam. I wasn't the best student myself so I know what it is like to fail these tests as a student and have to retake them.

So that's a little about what this is going to be about. And of course the ventings that come from being a teacher and our education system. I would appreciate any feedback from those of you that have tried to implement these systems and your experiences.

Happy teaching!