How many student visits did you get yesterday afternoon/this morning?
Sometimes when I listen to myself talk it makes me want to throw up.
Another year comes to an end and another group of students try to avoid summer school with last minute work.
Is there a law somewhere that says only teachers can grade and have to spend hours of their free time doing so?
I was having a conversation with a coworker over the weekend about the value of the compare and contrast essay. Why do we do it? I understand in the AP class having to do it because it is on the test at the end of the year, but why do we focus on the compare and contrast essay in particular with on level students? Is it because we want them to be prepared for the next AP classes should the decide to take them? Is it because the skill of comparing and contrasting is important? The answer is probably some combination of all of those, but the larger issue is that kids are not arriving prepared to write and we as teachers can't continue to assume they'll get the skill in other classes or the following year.
Maybe it's because the shift to standardized testing has replaced essay writing? Kids just don't do it as much anymore. I don't base that on any research, it's just a feeling I have from talking to teachers. Is it true? This is part of a larger question about literacy, but it's important to discuss whether our instructional practices in the classroom are tied to something the students will need outside of school.
Being able to make an argument, defend it, and articulate your viewpoint in a persuasive way is something that all kids can benefit from both in grade school and their life in and beyond college. The DBQ essay, compare and contrast essay, and even creative writing can teach them to do this. Of course, the ability to write is tied closely to the ability to read which many Dallas students struggle with, but teaching grammar and breaking down sentence structure could be one of those missing pieces. We don't teach those things explicitly as much as we did and maybe that has something to do with the number of struggling readers we have. Not the most persuasive thing coming from a blogger, I know, but if this were a book I was writing, I promise I'd proofread. Until then, enjoy these minor typos because they're here to stay!
Happy Monday folks!
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Giving quality feedback to Dallas Students
Spending time grading Dallas Student Essays
Dallas Students demanding essay feedback
Many Dallas Students can't read
The first 6 weeks period is coming to a close so it's right about time for kids to start caring about their grades.
"I'm going to do better."
"Mister I'm going to bring this up."
"Can I have extra credit?"
"I want to apologize for xyz."
While my natural reaction is generally pessimistic, today was a little different. My usual "yeah right..." was absent in the student meetings I had today. Instead of pretending to believe they were going to change their approach to my class, I actually believed. I say things all the time, especially when I'm talking to 50+ kids in a row, that I half believe or just generally believe for all my students. Sometimes that specific, individual care just isn't there. Today, it was.
Two students came to see me, not to ask for free points, but with specific questions about things they got wrong to try and recover, not points, but knowledge. They sought to understand things they may not every be tested over again just so they could have that extra bit of information. Those are the things that I'm happy to give points back for. That is an interaction that makes me happy to teach. The spark that I look for, that passion and genuine interest in learning, was in those students today. Will it last? Hopefully. It's my job to try and cultivate that in all of them and to help it flourish.
Attendance for Credit for DISD Students
When things click in for Teachers and Students
Hard working Dallas Students
Credit Recovery in DISD
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Today is first progress report day! But really, what's the point? I can hear myself from the distant past getting excited about these things inspiring parent interventions and waking up the students to the realities of how hard they'll need to work to be successful in my class. These can be important tools if used correctly. I still believe that, but I get discouraged.
At the same time, I can hear the the me from the more near past saying "these are pointless. The kids don't care about them. The parents don't care either and won't even read them. This is a waste of time, effort, and paper. Why don't I save a tree by not doing this? Also, if too many kids are below our goal, i'm going to get in trouble and will have to waste more paper by having to fill out a million intervention forms nobody will ever look at..." This is the sad reality of what progress reports mean in DISD and many other schools across the country.
Who are these for anyway? Ideally they would be helpful as follows:
Students - Let students know the results of their efforts thus far. These can help them know what behaviors to continue or change going forward. It also lets them know what they are missing and where they need to spend more time studying.
Parents - This lets you see where your student is struggling, which teachers you may want to get in touch with, and gives you an opportunity to praise your student is having success.
Teachers - It lets you look at all your classes and identify what is working, what isn't, which students/classes need more help, and how you are doing compared to yourself in the previous weeks, months, and years.
Campus - It can show you which teachers need more support, which students are struggling across all their classes, what goals and initiatives need adjusting, and overall how the campus is progressing compared to others and the past.
Districts - This is a way to see which campuses are being successful and which need more attention. It's also a great opportunity to interact and invest parents in their students success.
Checks like this are supposed to be used to provide real time feedback so things stay on track; however, as they currently are, they end up being condescending to some and useless to others. The culture around them is all messed up.
All this talk about alternative graduation requirements has me thinking day and night about our requirements for students. The past two days we've written blogs about DISD students and Dallas graduation requirements. The article that sparked it all was this DMN article about letting kids sidestep the STAAR tests and graduate anyway. We'll be talking about this idea on our weekly Dallas education podcast to come out on Monday, but what has me really in thought this morning? The wrong and mixed signals we are sending our kids.
There is an expectation among students that if they show up they will get a grade. Where has this expectation come from? Have their prior teachers passed them for doing that just? You got it A, you tried B, you showed up C? Even if this was the policy of previous teachers, is it their fault? Teachers today are required to fail less than 10% of their students. The school will not tell you how to grade your students, but not meeting the requirement results in extensive paperwork, growth plans, increased evaluations and additional pressure. For example direct quotes I have been told by my administration are:
- “You need to decide if the paperwork is worth it, as a young teacher you have more to worry about.”
- “Have you done absolutely EVERYTHING to ensure that the student would not fail”
- “If most students are failing because the will not do homework, why do you assign homework?”
- “Have a makeup packet for students that are failing the final week so they can pass”
Is this preparing students to be college ready? Aren’t we teaching kids you can wait to the last minute, you don’t have to work hard, if you don’t do it, no worries the teacher will not count it? Those are not habits that set our students up for success. Do successful students ask why the teacher failed them or do they reflect on their own shortcomings. In the end, who is the passing requirement really hurting? Students that have not mastered the material are passed year to year, falling continuously further behind. We now face eleventh grade students that cannot read a picture book asking for a grade because they are present.