Monday, April 4, 2011

Crossing My Fingers, Knocking On Wood

Why, oh why, does this make me so nervous?

In Kansas, we only test students once at the high school level. It is up to schools to decide when they feel students are ready to test. At our school, we test freshmen who are in geometry (our most advanced students), and all the sophomores who haven't already tested.

If a student doesn't reach proficient level, we can remediate and have them test again. We use our math strategies class (junior year) for remediation and retesting.

All scores are banked until a particular class's junior year, then count together for that class. We don't know our complete results for a class until after the retesting takes place. That is happening this week.

Our school has received Standard of Excellence for five years in a row. This involves meeting AYP requirements for a percentage of students reaching the proficient level, but it also means that you must have at least 15% of the class in exemplary level and no more than 15% in academic warning.

We feel pressure to continue to achieve that level of performance.

The whole thing turns into an agonizing numbers game:

1.  This year's freshman class is 2 students short of the 15% exemplary. We have already tested the most advanced students, so we'll have to pick up a couple more exemplary from next year's sophomores in geometry.

2.  This year's sophomore class has just the right number of exemplary students, but what if a bunch of new students enroll and we need another 1 or 2 to reach the 15%?

3.  This year's junior class has enough exemplary, but needs 5 more proficient. Those students who did not reach proficient the first try will be retesting this week in their math strategies classes. There are 17 of them, and we're pretty sure there will be more than 5 who make it. So all is probably well for this year, but we'll know for sure by the end of this week.

I hate that we have to do this.

Not the testing. I am okay with that, for the most part. I hate the counting of students and the calculating of percentages, and the worrying that we might be one short of the goal. And the feeling that I am not teaching math as much as I am teaching strategies. And the feeling that you have done all that you can and it might not be enough. I worry too much, I guess.

At this point, I'm just hoping for the best.

1. But how lucky you are that you can retest and choose when to test! I would trade anything for that!!!! I would also trade your 15% because we only have 15% who are proficient. Maybe you need to post more on how you prepare students for the testing because we could sure use some help!

2. It is a sadly meaningless statistic that you're school is stressing everyone over. I mean, how would they know if you had accomplished the impossible by getting as many students proficient as you did this year? You could've had half your class with severe knowledge deficits, and you should be praised, not berated, if you were only two short of the proficiency target.

Ugh! I hate that nonsense.

Amy, do you give quizzes or tests that include multiple choice questions to prepare your students for the state test? I haven't gone that route, but the thought has certainly crossed my mind.

3. Misscalcul8, You are right, we are lucky! I attribute some of our success to the fact that our tested objectives are very specific, so we know exactly how to help our students prepare. I am sure that will change with the recently adopted Common Core . . . new standards seem pretty general.

Paul, I probably shouldn't have written this when I was feeling so stressed out. The reality is not as bad as I made it sound. I am fortunate to have a very positive working environment, and much of the stress is self-imposed. I can't say that I have ever been berated because of our results. Also, the percentage requirements come from the state, so all schools here are striving for the same thing. All that said, I agree with you that there must be a better way . . . Grrr!

As for test prep, we do use multiple choice questions around crunch time to help our students prepare. I can't say that I use them throughout the year, though.