Houston, we have a problem.

Gave the first “I-Check” today, which is basically the FOSS program’s name for their quizzes.  I was very curious to see how the kids would do.  Overall, I’m a little disappointed with the scores, although they follow some clear patterns that will help me tailor my instruction.  First, I didn’t put enough emphasis on the vocabulary.  FOSS doesn’t belabor vocabulary, but there are a handful of important words that the kids need to know really well.  Second, making line graphs and interpreting them is very challenging for the students – I knew that, and I think the kids made a lot of progress since the start of the year, but clearly we have room to improve.  So in the next section, I’ll put a little more emphasis on vocabulary and review the essentials of graphing again.  At least now I have an idea which kids have the skills mastered and which need more attention.

The third problem with the quiz wasn’t really my fault – it’s that the vocabulary used in the program, and the way questions are phrased, tends to lose some of my kids who are weaker readers.  For example, there was a question about mechanical advantage that asked what the “benefit obtained” from using a lever is.  And another question asking the students to interpret a graph, was almost exactly what we had spent tons of time on over the last week, but phrased in more sophisticated language, and kids didn’t recognize the question as something they knew.  Instead of saying, “What pattern does this graph show?” it asked about “the relationship between the location of the load and the amount of effort required to lift the load.”  So I’m not quite sure what to do about this problem.  I could adjust my phrasing to echo the language of the quiz, but in the end, kids have to be able to read and understand these questions when asked in a variety of ways.

But none of these things are the problem, the real problem, the capital-p Problem.  It’s a difference in achievement between my regular education classes and my CTT class, which is 40% students with special needs.  That class did much worse than the others – and not just the students with special needs, all the kids.  So the big question facing me is why?  And what do I do about it?

My initial reaction is that we spend a lot more time putting out fires in that class, and things take a lot longer, so we sometimes miss opportunities for consolidation of ideas, for extra examples, for some of the random little things that I do with the other classes that get jettisoned when we’re tight on time due to behavior issues in the CTT class.  The level of discussion doesn’t get as high because there are so many distractions.  I really want them to stay on pace with the other classes, because slowing down certainly won’t help us avoid an achievement gap.  But keeping up the pace is still leaving them behind.

What to do?  That is the big unanswered question.  We’re having a PD meeting Thursday with our CTT mentor, so I guess I’ll ask her.  And of course, I’ll see what my co-teacher thinks.  Frustrating!  This isn’t the point of CTT!


If I lived downtown, I’d be in Brooklyn at the Mountain Goats concert.  Since I don’t, I have to console myself by just listening to their music in my iTunes.  Have I mentioned how beautiful this song is?  “And an astronaut could have seen the hunger in my eyes from space…”  I love that line.


1 Comment

Filed under music, New York, special education, teaching

One response to “Houston, we have a problem.

  1. Pingback: Closing the gap… « ms. frizzle

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