Miss Bennett in the Bay

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Apr 20 2008

Gaining on the Goal

All year long, my class has been about 10 percent under the Big Goal. They have made tremendous reading growth so far and I have no doubt they will meet their goals in that realm. But math continues to elude us.

After my round 3 meetings a few weeks ago, my Program Director pointed out that there are about 5 kids whose math averages are between 50-70%. (The ones between 70-80% are already in math intervention.) We talked for a while about what might be holding this group back, and came to the conclusion that the problem is really investment.

Now, I know all you TFA-ers out there know that investment is what TFA is all about. I also know that you know that constantly re-investing your class in everything you do is really difficult. At the beginning of the year, I spent a lot of time on investment, and my students really responded to it. Then, I got to a point in about November when I realized that the reason my average wasn’t quite there is because I sucked it up at lesson planning. Then, Jess and I started collaborating really effectively and became really good planners. Now, I have a focus group that is being held back because they don’t believe that they can achieve the way their peers can.

After that meeting, I revamped a lot of investment things in my class. I put up new tracking that showed progress towards the goal, not just mastery. I planned a super re-take day for all the math quizzes that my students need to re-take. And I gave my students capes to get them invested in CST prep.

This is not quite enough for that focus group. I had run out of creativity and I was at a loss.

But then, one of the focus students, S, asked to come in and retake his math quizzes on Friday after school. I was almost surprised when he said this, because he has never once asked if he could do such a thing. So, I sat with him in my classroom for over an hour on Friday afternoon while he retook 6- count them, 6- goal quizzes.

He mastered every single one of them. He got a 100% on 5 out of the 6, and a 94% on the last one. His overall math average went from a 54% to a 77%. That gain alone took my class average from a 71% to a 74%.

We were both ecstatic. I asked him if he would be embarrassed if I told his classmates about his progress.

S: Um, yeah.

Me: So you don’t want me to tell them?

S: Oh, no. I definitely want you to tell them.

I am hoping that highlighting S’s successes will help those other focus students believe that they can do the same. With his progress, I am starting to really believe that my students will meet their goal. Before, those 9 points seemed so out of reach. Now, 6 points doesn’t seem so bad. I’m going to spend time today making graphs to show how close we really are.

On the CST prep front, my students are making real progress towards honing their super power skills to defeat their arch-nemesis, the CST. I was thinking about the challenge of maintaining that “I can” attitude, so I wrote a poem for them to say. (WARNING: cheesiness imminent!)

Super Test Takers

I’m a Super Test Taker,

I always give my best.

I’m a Super Test Taker.

I am better than the rest.

I’ll come to school each day,

Nothing can stand in my way.

I’ll think about each problem,

Because I know I can solve them.

I’m a Super Test Taker,

I’ll give it my best.

I’m a Super Test Taker,


3 Responses

  1. LOVE the poem.

    Sometimes I really wish I taught the young ‘uns.

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"All that is gold does not glitter, not all who wander are lost." -J. R. R. Tolkien

Bay Area
Elementary School
Elementary Education

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