Thursday, May 08, 2008

A Rant

Usually I mention all of the foibles of school in my running log, because somehow it seems more private and inaccessible. But I've gone this long without being discovered, it seems. With a week and a half of school left, I'm feeling more willing to speak openly. And I need to vent.

I gave my Algebra II final today and I was plugging numbers as a result. I will start out with what is the most important number: my students averaged 48% on the final exam. If I discount the one student who was not with us the entire year and the student who worked for only about five or six days, that number goes up to 60%. Which is not quite as heart-tearingly awful, but is pretty damn miserable itself. (Consider, too, that I lopped 40% off the end of my test because we just didn't manage to cover that material. Which means that is 36% mastery of the material I intended to teach.)

There are many things that can explain those numbers. My own performance as a teacher is obviously one of them. I think it's important for teachers to take responsibility for what happens in their classroom, so I hate to have this next paragraph sound like an excuse. But here goes:

I also ran numbers on attendance in the class. In the first semester, my individual attendance average was 75%. One student made it to 79% of the classes. (Noah, our English teacher, once mentioned that he noticed something somewhere online saying that attendance below 90% is legally considered some form of delinquency). This semester, when things started to go sour, we dropped to 54% attendance.

When running these numbers, I counted only days where I had a student in class: early outs, assemblies, cancellations--these did not count. Nor did the days where simply no one showed up. By this standard, we had 97 days of Algebra II this year (if you count this week and next that will probably go up to 104 days). Our school year is scheduled for 172 days.

Here is what I find most shocking: if I look at the raw number of days that students were actually in Algebra II this year, my student who was in the class the most attended 65 days of class. In the entire year.

What do we do about it: we don't punish students who skip class ("Just fail them," instructs the principal); if our secretary is on maternity leave, we don't even bother to check if absences are excused; our School Information Coordinator refuses to share his attendance data with our Truancy Officer; we cancel school at least once every two weeks, sending a wonderful message about how important school is.

My favorite story about how we encourage good attendance comes from just this week: on Tuesday, there were three elementary school field trips scheduled. We no longer had enough buses to get all the students to school. The solution: anyone on a bus route just doesn't have to come that day. Glad to know we have our priorities straight.

Attendance is only the first issue. Recently we learned we lack sufficient funds to pay all our employees for the rest of the year. Nonessential staff are being cut just so we can keep our doors open. It's unclear where all that money went.

Time to run off this frustration.

1 comment:

DVDAi said...

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