Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Progress--when does progress equal success?


Winter break came and went. Since then, the talk at school has been assessments, exams and some more assessments. Think, NWEA, WIDA, M-STEP, ACT, MME, local assessments.....


 This is the conversation that I had with a colleague yesterday after school:


-Do you want to see my students' NWEA scores? Many of them made amazing gains!
-Sure!
-Do you see this kid? He gained almost 20 points!
-That's amazing!
-Yes, but do you realize that theoretically he is still a total failure as he is nowhere near his actual goal. After having made almost 20 point gain this year, what are his chances of making that gain again before the end of May?
-I really did not have much to say. What could I say?  "Let's wish for a miracle?"
-And do you see this kid, he went down from the fall because he was actually trying now instead of just guessing.
-I know.

Then J. and I started to talk about what really is the most difficult part for the students in math.
Word problems, of course! We are, after all, talking about a student population that is 48% ELL!
We brainstormed ideas. Found simple word problems that J. could use for pre and post tests in his classroom to help his lowest students. We printed visuals for students to use when trying to determine which math function is needed. We made plans how we could pull small groups that need extra help. We strategized!

Still, will any of the work that we have done make a difference if the numbers don't tell the right story? (I wish I had a research to show that NWEA is not meant for basic or lower level ELLs!) Our students might know how to do the computation part just fine, but they do not have enough language and vocabulary to understand the complicated word problems. Does this mean that our students are bad in math?

(Now I am really trying to channel Leigh Anne's OLW, turn, and choose a positive approach even though I am feeling very negative about this endless testing that is taking place!)
So, today, I choose to celebrate with J. the gains that his students have made in math! Today, I choose to collaborate and find ways to help those students who are not proficient yet. Today, I choose to support my colleague and encourage him. Today, I choose to turn my eyes to the positive results, and focus on what good is happening in J's classroom!


27 comments:

  1. Everyone needs a cheerleader. Glad J. has one in you. No teacher would ever dispute the toll testing takes on our students. Choosing to celebrate what the testmakers won't is the only sane approach to take - that and letter writing to anyone who'll listen.

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  2. Everyone needs a cheerleader. Glad J. has one in you. No teacher would ever dispute the toll testing takes on our students. Choosing to celebrate what the testmakers won't is the only sane approach to take - that and letter writing to anyone who'll listen.

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    1. Judy, everyone definitely needs a cheerleader!

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  3. While I share your concern that scores do not always equal or not equal progress, they are still subtle clues that progress towards some goal is happening. The real measure of our teaching and their learning happens over time....sometimes long after we are not in their inner circle of companions!

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    1. Testing in moderation should be the name of the game! More time spent in teaching would most likely mean faster/bigger progress as well.

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  4. Choosing to celebrate is always a good choice! All of this testing?!?! I have no words. I wish you were down the hall from me!!! Having supportive colleagues can make all the difference! I think supporting each other in this time of testing is a good way to survive.

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    1. Yes, Michelle, we need to support one another! If we want to survive and actually enjoy teaching, we need to be there for our colleagues!

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  5. Jaana I don't see how teachers continue to remain positive with the attacks coming on them. Cuomo is trying to make it worse in NYS. So keep your celebrations coming. You need it and your kids, man to they need it. We are here for you!

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    1. Thanks Bonnie! We need more celebrations! Maybe I could organize a small celebration at school!

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  6. We need to celebrate every little things that happens or else I really think we would just fall apart. It is really nice to have someone to bounce ideas off of and get suggestions when we are staring at a blank wall. Glad J. has you to turn to for advice.

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    1. You are so right! We need to celebrate the small things. If we wait for the big things, like everyone in a class being at grade level, we might never end up celebrating.

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  7. The numbers don't tell the whole story - it's teachers like you, who care and put the work in, who know can really tell the whole story. Is any one listening, though?

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    1. We definitely need more people listening!

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  8. Your attitude is a light. You know the story of the child and that matters. This is how you find the celebrations.

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    1. So true Terje! When we know the stories, we will have celebrations!

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  9. When will somebody recognize that a test is not the be all and end all of a student? I hope it happens in my lifetime. Stay strong and make the difference in your kids lives.

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    1. Thank for the encouragement Elsie!

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  10. Jaana,
    You clearly know that students are not numbers. We have to celebrate what they "CAN" do and then set the next small goal and then the next one to keep moving in a positive direction! Remember "The Little Engine that Could" and his "I think I can" speech did eventually get him to his goal!!! <3

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    1. Move in a positive direction! Yes, that's where we are heading!

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  11. This is what we can do, Jaana - turn the negative into the positive. We can focus on what we can control. I love the last paragraph!!

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    1. Yes, focus on what we can control!

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  12. I'm going to celebrate you for a moment, too! Sounds like your colleague is lucky to have a friend like you to bounce ideas off, talk things through with, look at data logically, etc. Nice going - keep it up!

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  13. Love what you chose to do - all because of channeling Leigh Anne's OLW. I celebrated much earlier in your post - when I read the words. "We brainstormed ideas...we printed visuals... we made plans...we strategized!" So glad you and your colleague were able to collaborate. You two rock!

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    1. Thanks Ramona! I love strategizing with colleagues!

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  14. And we continue to find solutions...and celebrations...and ways to cope BECAUSE there is no other choice. If not us, then who will tell our student's stories... we believe in them or we couldn't keep showing up day after day. It is important to share this, thank you!

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    1. You are right, we need to tell our students' stories!Today I am celebrating finished paperwork! Tomorrow I will focus on grading exams!

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