July 14, 2013

Off Balance

            Yes, that’s what I’d call it, off balance.  While I was enjoying the last drive-in in Florida last night, this little visual “came” to me.  You see, I have a hard time turning off a train of thought if that train of thought impacts me greatly.  And, this does. I won’t go into the possible impacts on my VAM score, or the push for higher test scores that my district is heading toward (not that we weren’t before, but it is amazing what a change in leadership will do).  It happens because I am type A-there, I admit it!  Just like my dad, I’m driven to do my best and look at what I do as not being complete till it meets my standards of “the best” in my eyes.  That’s what is so amazing about it.  I don’t need to be everyone else’s “the best”, I just have to be my “the best”!  So, enough about this, and back to the topic-off balance!
      While I was thinking about the topic of conceptual concepts, I was also thinking about how, and why, we are given so many areas of conceptual concepts.  How, as you can see, there would be so many for such an age where the kids aren’t ready for it.  That seems to be the primary concern that I have, as well as so many others, I’m sure.  In 4th grade, kids are transitioning from skill understanding to this higher-level thinking and understanding at a conceptual level.  Not every kid is ready for it, so, state wide, 4th grade always seems to dip in reading test scores.  Yet, in Florida, that is the reporting grade they tend to use as a bench mark over and over.  There’s always the big hype over the promotion of 3rd graders, but when the rest of the scores come out, 4th grade tends to be a focus-with 8th and 10th.  It helps, in some ways, for me at least now, to know why!  Why the dip occurs.  But this is also only the first glaring reason.  

            In my investigation as to why, I also discovered this!

This shows the expected growth in reading scores from 3rd to 4th and then from 4th to 5th!  Another clear reason why there is such a dip from 3rd to 4th!  Not only do they hit them with conceptual challenges, but then they up the expected growth by A LOT!  I won’t go on, I could, but I won’t!

            Now, back to the conceptual concepts.  In O’Meara’s book, RTI with Differentiated Instruction is, finally, the definition of something that puzzled me this year.  The magical “80%” expectation.  I kept wondering, “Where in the world did they get this number?!”  Somewhere, the powers that be, determined that if students could score 80% or higher, they are considered successful.  Then you target your kids that aren’t doing that.  We must be paying attention to that number-80% or better!  That doesn’t mean that we need to put these kids into a remediation group and skill and drill them!  This means it’s time for DIFFERENTIATION!   Oh, how I love that term and how Jodi pointed me in this direction.   Instead of hitting these kids with things that don’t work, at the same level as everyone else, we start looking at how to meet their needs in smaller group settings, through things we are doing, in a different way!  We tract their data, we check to really see what’s going on and what growth is happening, and, when it happens, we RELEASE THEM!   Not every kid needs to be an RTI kid.  Sometimes, when conceptual concepts aren’t hitting them, we need to differentiate and help them see and grow.  Because, let’s face it guys, concepts aren’t something that just come to everyone!  They need this time to be caught so they can be released! 

            How does this tie all together?  It is still that question that lingers. In all of this stuff, how do we REALLY know a concept has been successfully met?  How, besides being able to score it through a multiple-choice answer, do we know they do it?  I don’t know if I can even answer that, besides being able to say, “I just do.”  I know when their writing reflects the skill and it is correct.  I know when supports are present.  I know I’ve scored it using the Marzano Rubric for Learning.  I also know I adjust my expectations from time to time.  So maybe that’s what is really eating at me.  How do I stabilize my expectations of a concept?  Just like Jodi points out in her book.  If you have any ideas, feel free to leave me a comment!  

Here is a link to the Off Balance Graphic.  I'm putting it in TPT simply because I don't know how to link documents to the blog yet!  Also, it will have the full scale score chart I made for both math and reading expectations!

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