As I indicated on Twitter this week, I was disappointed in my class AP scores this year. We haven't gotten our state test scores back yet, but I fear there may be a somewhat similar let down there as well.
For any teacher worth their salt, when there is a drop off in performance of students, they sit down and try to analyze things, which I have done a lot since Tuesday, a lot of thinking time and a couple of hours of sitting down and actually writing down thoughts. But since this will be a darn long, rambling (knowing me) serious of thoughts, I figured I ought to give some background since I haven't blogged in 10 months.
This coming school year will be my 17th, my 16th teaching Chemistry. I've taught in schools of 4600, and in schools of 70, public and private, urban and suburban. Now I teach at an amazing magnet high school of 600 or so students 9-12. While I have numerous things I'd like changed about my school (who doesn't?!?), it is a truly outstanding place, one that I hope I can spend the next 20 years at to be honest.
Prior to coming here 4 years ago, I taught at an urban high school that I also loved for very different reasons because it was a very different school. After teaching there my first year, I realized that I really needed to adapt my teaching style from the sort of stand up, lecture, work problems, do labs, rinse and repeat style. A big part of that is that my students there had a really hard time doing much real work outside of school, largely because of their home situations and other distractions.
This made me dive full bore into more "progressive" styles of teaching, and in the 6 or 7 years since then I've read dozens of books and hundreds of articles on new ways to do things in the classroom. I've been presenting PD in my district for several years on flipped and student centered classrooms. For my Chemistry I classes for the past 5 years, I've been all in, full-flip, standards based grade, inquiry labs, retakes, everyday grouping, etc. Last year our school had the highest achievement scores in the district, so that must indicate that something worked right about it.
Even though I'm at a really innovative school, I've always felt a bit like an outlier because of this. The bulk of the teachers at my school are hard deadlines, lots of out of class work, no retakes, zeroes for missing work. What this functionally meant for me is that students (who I think like me a lot, I'm the favorite for a few) often leave my work til last because they know I'll be flexible where others won't. I still hold really high standards for knowledge and problem solving, but I care a lot about stress loads on my kids, I've almost always been willing to move a test date for their projects in other classes, or other tests, etc.
For a year or so I've been having the feeling that my methods might not be right for this school and the students that I serve here, and so the rather poor performance on the AP Chemistry exam this year was just more fuel for that fire. I'll speak more on that in the next post, but I want to be very clear that I'm not blaming students for the poor scores...these are kids that rocked out other AP classes, I'm taking the bulk of the blame on me.
part 2 to come shortly!