In my second year at my current school, I find myself in a grade level hallway as opposed to being in the tech wing with no lounge and rare interactions with teachers who weren't on either side of my classroom. I'm naturally inclined to talk to my colleagues because now we're in such close quarters. It's not that tight but it's different from being out in the open. In conversation, I heard teachers talking about how sixth graders don't make gains like their MS counterparts - particularly in Math. Interesting, though I refused to believe it. Then coincidently, I received my data from last year's FCAT (Florida's Standardized Test).
I taught sixth and eighth grade Intensive Math (meaning they had two Math classes). Despite being warned, I was utterly disappointed to see such a glaring disparity between the gains of my two grade levels taught. I'm not exactly sure how they measure gains from their scores on the FCAT but that's a key component public school educators look at when analyzing their data. Apparently, I found that there are many of my students who weren't accounted for in my data. I still don't know why but I have enough on my plate as is so I won't inquire to the higher beings. Anyway, my results:
16 out of 28 of my sixth graders made gains which comes out to about 57%. 54 out of 66 of my eighth graders made gains which comes out to about 82%. Overall, 74% of my students made gains on the FCAT.
Interesting. So maybe my colleagues were right. It so happened that this is all happening at the close of the first grading period so I had to compare my final grades between my sixth and seventh grade Reading classes. Yes, I went from teaching Math one year to teaching Reading the next. Guess which one I'm certified in. I analyzed my grade distribution and separated my sixth from my seventh grade students. I measured "success" by earning a C or higher on their report cards. My results are as follows:
52 out of 70 sixth graders were "successful" in my class. 24 out of 27 seventh graders were "successful". The breakdown comes out to 74% success in sixth grade and 89% success in seventh grade. Hrmmm. Not as disparate as my testing data from last year.
So far, I can gather either one of three conclusions:
1 - My colleagues were right. Am I stupid if I STILL refuse to believe this?
2 - I don't challenge my seventh graders enough. This based on my grade distribution.
3 - Everything looks about right. Maybe the comparison between 6th and 8th is supposed to yield a bigger disparity versus the 6th/7th comparison?
I still hope for better things to come from my 6th graders. Despite all this data. They're awesome. But all my students are awesome. Thoughts to share? Comments? Anyone. Aaanyone?
'til next time