Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Bad Grades = Bad Teacher

Tuesdays are rough. I miss Monday while in class all day. I'm out of my rhythm by the time Tuesday rolls around. I know what we planned on Friday, but I'm dying to know what really happened. Did they change seats? How did they do on Friday's test? Who was absent?

Unfortunately, I have to wait at least an hour or two to find out. Tuesday mornings are staff meetings, 7:30 sharp. I attend every one, even though, oftentimes, I'm just observing. I feel like a fifth wheel as teachers stress about mission statements, annual goals, CST scores, and test scores, test scores, test scores. Teachers are critiqued and evaluated based solely on their students' standardized "benchmark.

I've always thought this was an unfair practice. Teachers compare scores with each other question-by-question to see who "dropped the ball" and who needs to "pick it up" in specific areas. Schools compare schools. No wonder, my master teacher is always in a bad mood afterwards. How can you evaluate teacher performance based on a single standardized test? The worst is that teachers are told to compare their scores to previous years. There are just too many variables in such a small sample size. One class can be vastly different from the next. One year is not enough time to implement and evaluate the true, long-term effects of a change. Yet, teachers are encouraged to make changes every year, based off last year. Many assumptions are being made, and false conclusions are being drawn from poor data.

I lived this frustration today. My students took their first benchmark exam and averaged D-. It was like a punch to the gut. I had tried so hard to teach them. We used activities, labs, discussions, assessments, etc., etc., etc. I stayed after school and skipped lunch to tutor students. To make it worse, my MTs 4th period Bio, which he taught solo, averaged an entire letter grade higher. I was desolate. I feel like it's my fault.

My MT was very comforting and supportive, but it's hard to shake off. I know I should expect to perform like an inexperienced teacher, but it's a slap in the face when your student performance suffers because of it, despite your best efforts. I suggested that maybe my students weren't able to demonstrate their knowledge because they don't have enough practice with the multiple-choice format. We're going to use a practice M.C. test to help them review. Having a possible solution to the problem, one that I can actually use and measure, made me feel better, even if it doesn't work. At least I have a plan of action.

At the end of the day, I love being in the classroom. I love the students. As long as I focus on that, I will be okay.

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