Hello, reader! If you intend to post a link to this blog on Twitter, be aware that for utterly mysterious reasons, Twitter thinks this blog is spam, and will prevent you from linking to it. Here's a workaround: change the .com in the address to .ca. I call it the "Maple Leaf Loophole." And thanks for sharing!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

2010-2011 Wrap Up

There are just some things I want to get down right now. There was less blogging this year (I know...the spirit just didn't move me, as much, maybe I should set up some kind of schedule.)

Things to Consider about Grading
-go back to 5 point scale
-first assessment - feedback only?
-require that homework be done, checked, discussed, etc before reassessment?
-"show me what you practiced" - you must provide evidence of practice before reassessment. at a minimum, corrections on the two in-class assessments  - and the practice problems from that day on the calendar (?)
-summative assessments - all MC questions - every 6-10 weeks
-pare down standards list somehow
-write reassessment questions ahead of time and have them ready
-alternative assessments/reassessments? record themselves solving a problem?

Add to Lessons
-notebook checks and grades for notebook organization
-Discovery Education videos? (we have a subscription, apparently)
-more structure for vocab in geometry
-open notes for quizzes?
-allow single-page crib sheet for quizzes?
-compelling the kids to write more. Don't just tell me the answer, describe how you got it. Describe how you know. Save samples of good and bad writing.

Things I Don't Yet Know the Answer to:
Ways for kids to share their thinking in the middle of class without interrupting the flow too much. Options right now are: 1. Throw whatever they have in front of them under the document camera. Quick but sloppy. They aren't necessarily writing for an audience in their notes. 2. Haul their butts up to the whiteboard to copy what they've already done so everyone can see it. Takes time. That we don't have to spare. 3. Some elegant tech-y solution I haven't thought of yet. (Idea: Poll them early to figure out who has a camera phone on them, and who can text/email an image for free. Go with that.)

Big Overall Thing I Notice about Myself this Year: I used to be the annoying asshole in the group who was always trying to show she was smarter than everyone else. I've turned into the slightly less annoying asshole who's paying attention to actively supporting whatever good is transpiring around her slash shutting up and listening. I like new me a whole lot more than old me.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

I Can't Do Both

This comment got way out of hand, and Dave's question really gets to the heart of the matter. I feel like I've said all this before, but it bears repeating, in case any non-educator policymakers are actually listening and actually give a crap.

David Cox said: 
"The question, as I see it, is this: Can we do both? Can we teach students math—real, interesting, thought provoking, man-this-stuff-is-cool, math—and still have them show growth on whatever assessment is put in front of them?"
That's an awesome question, Dave. There are three problems with our current state exams in NY anyway that complicate the issue. 

#1 There is way too much content tested for a course that is supposed to be done in one year. I think most of us would agree that authentic learning takes time, but if you take the time to do it right, you can only cover maybe 2/3 of the stuff tested. We have to make the choice of exposing students to all the content by frog-marching them through it, or teaching it in a way they really learn it and conceding there will be stuff on the test they've never seen before.

#2 Many of the questions strictly test knowledge of notation and vocabulary. A kid could know the math inside and out but still miss these.

#3 Many of the questions have a gotcha nature that are clearly not intended to assess understanding. For example, this week one of my students couldn't understand why she picked the wrong answer on a multiple choice trig question - she had done everything right, but her calculator was in radian mode instead of degree mode. Those weasels had made the radian-mode answer one of the distractors, AND, this wrong answer was reasonable in the context of the question.

These are my frustrations around NY exams that make me feel like I can't both teach for understanding and teach such that the exams show progress. It remains to be seen how the common core assessments address these issues. 

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Immovable Object vs. the Unstoppable Force

The narrative seems to be boiling down to a showdown.

The Immovable Object: Mathematics
see also:
Paul Lockhart
Ellen Kaplan
George Polya
Andrei Toom
Michael Serra
Dan Meyer
Vi Hart
Jo Baoler
m-f'ing etcetera

The Unstoppable Force: Poorly-Written Purpose-Confused Tests with Non-Existent Validity
see also:
The College Board
Pearson/Prentice Hall
Bill Gates
The New York State Board of Regents
Governor Cuomo
The U.S. Department of Education
President Obama
The US Governor's Association
The Common Core common computer-based assessments : coming soon to a misery factory I mean school near you!

Until now, reasonable, effective, educated, brain-in-their-head math teachers have been able to shut their doors and concentrate on the immovable object.

But now, New York gets APPR (crammed down our throats, lawsuit-pending)? (40% of teacher evaluations based on student-progress-no-we-don't-really-know-what-that-means-yet-and-stop-asking!) Which I think means if we keep ignoring the unstoppable force, we get to lose our jobs.

Anyone get the number to that truck driving school? TruckMasters, I think it was called?