Friday, November 15, 2013

Remembering Why We Do This

For the past few weeks, I have been collecting data from my post-test for my SLO. I wrote about this test earlier this year when we implemented it for the first time. At my school, this test is 23 multiple-choice questions offered through a website outside of our LMS. Students take this test during the first 3 weeks of school and the first 3 weeks after quarter 1 of Art 1. I started this journey feeling very upbeat and excited to see what my students came into my classroom knowing and how they would grow throughout the quarter. What I have found is some unsettling data.

At the moment (several hours before the closing of my post-test), I am sitting at 58.9% of my students hitting their growth targets. That puts me in the "Least Effective" category as a teacher. Throughout my young career as a teacher over these past 3 years, I have been told nothing but good things about my teaching methods by administrators. My students have given me positive feedback about what they are learning when I speak to them and I have generally felt fulfilled and proud of where I am as a teacher. These results threw a wrench into my teacher ego!

As it is, I am still not sure what is causing my students to do so poorly. I know of the barriers we have that might affect their performance; students not engaging with the content, test anxiety, students tired of taking all of these assessments (one per class, 2 times in 10 weeks), the weakness of multiple-choice questions to assess project-based learning, home environment, test questions with confusing wording, and a lack of effort to name a few. I have gone through many days of discouragement this week, feeling like everything I have learned about education is wrong and all the compliments about my teaching methods have been lies.

But then, I started to look at the data more closely. I began to see students growing by leaps and bounds! Some of my weakest performers have grown by the highest percentage. I even have students who have scored 100% on my post-test. When I was inputting the data of one of my students with special needs and saw that he not only hit his growth target but surpassed it, I jumped for joy! I was reminded why I am a teacher. It is not about crunching the numbers and hitting this arbitrary goal. It is about teaching each individual student and helping each of them grow. Maybe the data isn't showing it, but the students who have actively engaged in learning in my classroom have a wealth of new knowledge. I know this from talking to them, and from watching their work improve every single week.

I will continue to troubleshoot my assessments for my SLO and how I can overcome these barriers so the data starts to really reflect more of what is going on in my classroom. But, there are just some things that you can't quantify.

Am I a least-effective teacher? I certainly don't feel like one.

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