Tuesday, July 6, 2010

AP Exam Results

I spent about an hour of my day today obsessively refreshing the CollegeBoard’s AP Score reporting site until I was lucky enough to slip through the overload of teachers, presumably doing the same thing as me (if my Twitter and Facebook friends are a representative sample).

I was excited because I was sure that my students had done well. I was sure that at least of few of my students would have passing scores and even crossed my fingers for a 4 (or even a 5!) from my most talented child. Finally I got through, so I paused the episode of Mad Men that I was watching to wait for my extremely slow Internet connection to load the page (I can’t complain – free internet via the computer store I live above).

And not one of my 13 students passed the exam.

Not one.

Of my 13 students, 11 earned 1’s and 2 earned 2’s.

There are, of course, a lot of factors that I can blame beside myself.

“These kids” have never been challenged before -- Honors classes were only implemented this year, and it is VERY difficult to successfully differentiate instruction with levels that range from I-don’t-understand-the-difference-between-a-rectangle-and-a-square! and Can-I-stay-in-your-room-at-lunch-and-do-extra-trig-identity-problems?

“These kids” don’t know how to study because they’ve literally never had to study before, breezing through classes that are not at all challenging.

“These kids” have never had to do more that 30 minutes of homework in a night.

“These kids” are under-prepared – who knows what they even learned in middle school? And we all know that the 9th grade HSA Algebra class is a joke (or at least it was two years ago)!

“These kids” have poor literacy skills, which are extremely important in AP Statistics – in fact, there is more reading and writing than computation!

But, the truth is that it’s my job to get “these kids” to understand AP Statistics and to be able to communicate that understanding. And I was not successful this year. I need to make some drastic changes, because my lack of success is absolutely not acceptable. My job is to take the kids from where they are to a passing score on the AP exam.

Standards based grading, though I was at first reluctant to use it in my AP class, may be a part of what I do to make sure that students understand the content. Quarterly projects where students must communicate their knowledge orally might be helpful. I clearly need to read some books about literacy and incorporate strategies in my classroom.

This is how I will spend the rest of my summer – preparing for a brand new year. The status quo isn’t sufficient.

Bright spot. Jaime Escalante did not get the results that we watch in Stand and Deliver in a year or two. He first had to become department head and create a pipeline in which students experienced rigorous math curriculum beginning in middle school. It took him 8 years to get all those students to pass.

Now, I'm not Escalante. But, I'm a good teacher. I can be a better teacher. I can guide "these kids" to become "those kids" who triumphed against the odds.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Strawberry Cream Cheese

I have a very specific plan for AP Statistics, which involves finishing the entire curriculum before Spring Break so that we can just review, review, review for 4 weeks afterward until THE BIG DAY - May 4th.

So, as you can imagine, I'm not a huge fan of snow days. They mess up my detailed schedule and they make me all curmudgeony and complainy and generally not fun to be around. Aside: It is awesome being a math teacher and getting to make up words sometimes. However, my kids think I make up lots of words that are actual words - like causation. They're pretty convinced I made that up and I cannot convince them otherwise.

Anyway, tomorrow a lot of the students at my school are taking the Algebra HSA, so non-test-taking students don't have to show up until 11:30. Because I'm evil, I'm forcing my Stats kids to come in at 9 am for two hours of Stats. Whine, whine, groan, groan mad faces, etc.

Then I told them I'm going to bring them breakfast. Faces lit up a little bit, and they seemed like they actually might show up. A student asked if I could bring strawberry cream cheese for the bagels. Sure, why not. I mean, I think the stuff is gross (just look at it! gah!) But if that's what they want then fine.

And they cheered. Seriously. I think I can get them to do anything if I bribe them with strawberry cream cheese.

Of course, now I have to go plan two hours of statistics - and wake up early to buy a LOT of donuts and bagels (and strawberry cream cheese, of course).