Thursday, November 10, 2011

Cool Trapezoid Problem

So my friend from down the hall (and the one that got me started with bloging and twitter) took her GRE again yesterday.  I stopped by her room while passing by to see how it was and she said she had a problem SIMILAR to this and needed help with it.

I really like it!  I'm not sure if I worded it right but this is the jest that she was getting across to me when she was explaining the problem.
I was wondering if anyone had any other interesting brain teasers out there that wouldn't be totally beyond my students but that would make them think.  I really love problems like this and my kids tend to like them a lot too!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Giving our feedback to the district

So the district has heard how some of the parents feel about our attempt to implement SBG and when I went to the last board meeting the teachers were not allowed to voice their opinion and have their voices heard.  I was told directly by our Community Relations person that the parents and the students are the main "stake-holders" in the school system and that's who the board and the superintendent will listen to.
So what did we do the next few days in my class?  The students wrote letters to the Board and Superintendent!  :)
Here are snippets from some of the best letters!

This student is very respectful and up front with her feelings towards the grade changes.

 I love the analogy, or is it a simile that this kid draws!
 This student states very clearly that they liked seeing how they were doing in each category or skill.
 I love how this one points out that some of the parents that were complaining didn't even have students that attended our school!
 I love this opening statement!  This kid is going to be awesome at writing persuasive papers.
 This child just wants to totally reform our entire grading system
 This child knows that not all the parents are completely educated on the process!
 I think this students was having a Jerry McGuire moment, "help me help you..."
 This is one of my Special Education students and this kid did a wonderful job of explaining why they could understand the previous system much better.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Staff Meeting with the Superintendent today

It was super awesome that our superintendent realized that we are all kinda clueless on how to have students track their progress without using the gradebook. He actually answered my question with "I don't know"! He was truly honest for at least a second!

A lot of us showed up in total black to mourn the loss of so much that we've worked on for the past few years. Our principal even said that the it was evident that many of us are in mourning of a we have worked on.

While I was surprised by how happy I was that he admitted he didn't know what to do. Thank goodness! And thank God our schools administration is still behind us.

How we WERE doing SBG

So as you read this you have to keep in mind that we were doing a version of SBG.  We were not doing true SBG, which is what I got into many heated debates with coworkers about.

So the district tells us which unit to teach when.  What we would do is then go through this lesson planning cycle  (Oh and the TEKS are the standards the state gives us, we aren't joining the common core movement.  That's a whole different blog!)

So, we would then design what we previously called our Summative Assessments, now our Unit Tests, and we would grade them by Category/Power Standard/Main Topic.  We would also give the students Proficiency Scales to let them know this is what we expect them to be able to do by the end of the unit and this is what grade it will earn them.

So here's a screen shot of one of the old Summative Tests.

The TEKS or state assessed standard is listed, the type of question it is is listed (LR = Logical Reasoning, Alg = Algebra) and the level of the question is listed.  At our school and in our PLC we would give the students all the tools to be able to do a Level 4 question but we would make them synthesize or evaluate their stance or defend/justify why they believe they had the right answers.  Some of the students were told that to do the level 4 questions they would have to go above and beyond what is taught in class.  I have spoken with many parents, students and administrators about that statement because I feel in Geometry that is a true statement.  I can't teach a student to think logically, especially a teenager.  I can show them the steps to make, but I can't make their brains function that way.  Being able to put the pieces together and make a logical argument is something that everyone has to learn at some point in time and I feel is an acquired skill, but that's also a part of my teaching philosophy and very influenced by the fact that I teach Geometry.

So after the tests the students would get their tests back and fill out this chart to figure out what their grade was.  

It was really awesome and the kids loved it!  They could quickly see where they lost their points and if it was big conceptual mistakes or little things like forgetting a negative or the word not.  Their grades actually meant something and the students were taking ownership of their own learning!  Now did all of the teachers do this?  No.  But they all have to do it now, since we didn't meet AYP this last year and we have to have data showing growth and that we were targeting students based on their weaknesses and intervening as necessary.

The part about how we previously reported grades back to the students (and the part I'm really going to miss) is how our gradebooks looked.

We didn't put grades in as 1s, 2s, 3s or 4s so we always had to convert back to a grade between 0 and 100 (this was because of issues with the gradebook).  But look at that!!!  You can look at that and instantly say, "Oh, this child needs help with Congruence".  It's right there in your face.  You don't have to pick through the assignments and see which have low grades and what they're titled.  And there's that study skills section at the end where I can report back how the students are behaving in class, if they're coming on time, bringing the necessary supplies, doing there homework, etc.  (I didn't exactly get that set up for that grading period, but that's been thrown out too).

So that's what we WERE doing.

I know, we're Texas.  We don't lead the change in systems or like to rock the boat in anything other than football and some other sports.  I did get to make the point to some of the big people in charge last week after the board meeting we didn't get to speak at that the STATE gives us STANDARDS to teach.  The STATE assesses the students on those STANDARDS and reports back scores on those STANDARDS.  Is it that crazy to think, "hey maybe we should model our system like the state?"  I'll go into detail about why this all blew up in our faces later but here's what's going on with my school now.

Now the titles in the gradebook in Blue are going to be Major and Minor.  They're each going to be worth 50%.  Major grades would be tests, assessments (even though I'm cautious using that word now since we can't say formative and summative anymore), and any projects.  Minor grades are in class assignments, homework, knowledge checks, quizzes, and the likes.  We no longer get to hand the students anything that tells them what their end goal is in each unit or what we expect them to be able to do.  Instead of Proficiency Scales that we can share with the students we now have Objective Alignment Documents that no student can see (I even found a clipart that says CLASSIFIED on it yesterday and put it on the documents that we can't share anymore, tehehe -- I have to get my laughs where I can!).

So that's the big system that had everyone in a tissy, or however you spell it.

The reason it caused so many issues is that it wasn't properly communicated to the parents before the school year started, they felt like they had no say in what was going on and classes that had previously been an easy 100 the students had to work harder for those grades.  Also in Texas we have this "wonderful" thing called the Top 10% Rule.  It went into effect shortly before I graduated from high school in 2000.  I had issues with it back then and I still have issues with it now.  It says "If you’re in the top 10% of your high school graduating class, you’re eligible for automatic admission to any public university in Texas. "  Because of this and the natural competition between class members in the high schools the parents want all of the students from all of the schools across Texas to be judged on what they think is a common ground and system.  The parents are currently assuming that all of the other districts are still reporting grades back to students as Tests, Quizzes, and Assignments but they don't realize that they all actually aren't.

So this is where we stand.
I'll post later today some of the things the students wrote in their letters to the school board and superintendent.  They have some awesome points!  =)