Monday, April 16, 2012

Data-Driven Teaching, Part 2

Ok, so yes, I have learned that data can be my friend. I can see if students are increasing with a certain set of skills---academic skills aligned with a test.

Although I am proud of my students' growth, proud of how I've built relationships amidst worksheets and tests, I long for constructivism. I want to give students a project idea and again see their strengths burst with creativity. However, I must wait.

"Teachers, you can do your 'pet projects' the last 4 weeks of school. You can do that novel the kids have been begging to read. You can write poetry and do artwork. But for the last 4 days before the test next week, nothing but CRCT practice."

We have been mandated to do after school tutorials and just 3 weeks ago, I was told that I could not have students in my classroom visiting before school without them working on CRCT practice. Relationship-building? Wait until the last 4 weeks. Creativity? Last 4 weeks. Critical thinking? Ha! What could they possibly think critically about? (sarcasm is thick, now!)

Funny how Georgia graduates only 51% of its students, yet the focus in my particular school is on "the" test---a state standardized test where students only have to get a 50% to pass! Now, I have been in Georgia for only 1 year. But the 1 year I have been here, I have had data conversations with administrators every other month to discuss who I am focusing on, how their scores are growing (or not) and why, and what extra tutorials I am offering.

I understand why students are not making it to graduation; I can hardly stomach "making it" until May 25th. Luckily, my kids enjoy my classes, think I'm funny, and feel like their English class flies by! Somehow I've made compound-complex sentences entertaining. But, are they ready for high school class discussions? Can they debate a topic? Can they explain a hypothesis? Sadly, only 51% will need to.

Maybe it is my exhaustion that speaks and not the value of hard work and focus. After all, our top students study for AP exams. But, they also debate, judge, analyze, and synthesize.

I must need a good night's sleep, drink lots of water, find a good number 2 pencil and a pink eraser... and all will be much better.

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