This school year has been a roller coaster. I feel better about this year than others, but I don’t feel like it was my best year as an educator.
I welcomed two new people to my Algebra I team. It’s difficult to keep teachers in Algebra I with soooo much pressure placed on us to do well with testing and pass students. About 1/3 of our students take Algebra 1 as an 8th grader. Their MAP scores are very high. Our 9th graders taking Algebra I do not include those students, so our scores are never as good. I wish I could make “the powers that be” understand that. My two new people were a GREAT addition and I loved
i started the year with interactive notebooking. I loved the idea, encouraged by blogs like Math=Love and Rockstar Math Teacher. Things didn’t go smoothly! Students complained, parents complained, other staff complained (well, it is a lot of copies)… By Christmas I was frustrated. I still liked the idea of notebooking, so I started changing everything to note sheets. I took a page from the sketchnote movement and made all of my pages VERY graphic. Students (and parents) seemed to like this better. Who knew that gluing in math class was considered a waste of time to parents?
We have a higher number of students who do not seem to find success in Algebra. Many of them have not been successful for many years. Our school re-introduced Core Support this year, a 40 minute time built into the day for extensive help in core content areas. This was very successful, although small scale.
Failing students was a huge discussion for us this year. Many factors played into this, some out of our control [attendance]. By 4th quarter, we had discussed many ideas to increase the motivation and learning for these students, flipped classrooms, standards based grading, no homework grades, you name it and we had discussed it as an option.
We decided to pilot standards based grading 4th quarter while reviewing for the EOC. We wanted our standards to spiral and evidence of mastery to occur at the end of the quarter. I LOVED IT! For the first time in a long time I felt I had a good handle on what students knew. Students were also more excited about their learning when they knew they would have to opportunity to fix mistakes by the next assessment. They also liked charting their progress with the standards. I had fewer A’s than normal for the quarter, but I also had fewer F’s; letter grades aside, I KNOW I had a larger increase in knowledge. I also feel like their grades more closely reflected their knowledge.
Planning for next year –
I will, according to a phone call last night, be welcoming another new member to my team (we just can’t keep Algebra I teachers!) We plan to use a modified flipped classroom design so we can spend more time in the classroom on engaging activities and remediation. We DEFINITELY plan to use standards based grading for the entire year. My summer reading includes Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess and Ditch That Textbook by Matt Miller. I’m hoping for tons of inspiration so that when next year ends I can say, “this has been my best year so far.”