Monday, February 12, 2007

Data Rich, Time and Manpower Poor

We've made a sea-change in my grade level team this year that would make any ed researcher giggle like a school girl.

It's a function of the Professional Learning Communities process that we began three years ago. We've finally gotten to the stage where we all are using the same assessment (theme skills tests from the Houghton-Mifflin reading series) and sharing our data. S takes all our scores (which are broken out by grammar, high frequency words, spelling skills, etc.) and puts them on a big spreadsheet so that we can see exactly which kid mastered which skill and which skills had the biggest failure rates.

The piece that we're struggling with is the "What do you do when a child doesn't get it?" step. Each theme test has about 12 to 14 areas on it; we look at the 3 that had the most trouble (this past test it was identifying nouns and verbs, using the 's possessive, and inflectional verb endings) and invite every kid who fails in any one of those three areas. For the kids who came we had an intensive 2 week bootcamp, 4 days a week, where we hit those three skills hard and fast. At the end I wrote up a new post-test based off of the theme skills test, and most of the kids showed good growth in the areas that they were identified for.

We're dealing with three distinct problems, though:

1) What do you do with the kids who still aren't getting a particular concept? Take inflectional verb endings (-ing, -ed, -s), for example. It's going to spiral up again in our reading curriculum, and they're going to get ample practice with it, so is it crucial that they pass a test RIGHT NOW?

What we've chosen to do is put together packets to send home to the parents so that they can practice those skills with their kids, but to truly see if that works or not I'll need to write another assessment on those areas and test them again, and the cynic in me wonders if it's really worth the trouble.

2) Then there's the kids who were invited to the before school progam but didn't come, about 10 in all. Ideally I would be able to make the time during the school day to intervene with them, but the twin competing pressures of time and curriculum make that a damn hard thing to do. With a student teacher I have the ability, right now, but when she goes away in March the time just won't be there any more.

3) Touching on the curriculum aspect of it, it's not like time has stopped while we try to remediate the skills they didn't get. We've moved into the long vowels (tough for 1st graders, believe me) for theme 6, but I'm still working with some kids on skills from theme 3 and 4. At what point do we let go and move on?


It feels good to be using the data the right way, and I can see the potential this holds to really help our students achieve to their maximum. My problem is that I'm getting burnt out in a hurry; last week I spent a minimum of 10 hours planning the remedial curriculum and pulling together the packets we need, and that's hard time to find with a baby at home and all the other obligations.

And that's why I drink.

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4 Comments:

Blogger The Science Goddess said...

Isn't there anyone at the district office (Curriculum) who can gather resources and plan the interventions for you?

6:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah yes, the tension between classroom based schooling and individualized schooling.

As our paradigm shifts more toward individualized education, the stereotypical classroom makes less sense, doesn't it?

I appreciate the time you take to relate the practical realities of the world and the reflection on ideals versus the possible.

JL

3:56 PM  
Blogger Ryan said...

Goddess: Not really. Our district office is two people (the super and the asst. super), neither one of whom really do that sort of thing. The biggest help around is probably our school psych, but he's the only one for our 2000-student district, so he's hopping around pretty good too.

JL: It's all about the professional development. We're never going to get to a fully (or even mostly) individualized system until teachers come out of the ed schools trained in differentiated instruction and fully equipped with intervention ideas. Were I the King of Education in my district, that's where I'd be pushing the development money.

7:11 AM  
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5:21 AM  

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