Holy crud. Yesterday I got an eye opener that a) explained a TON and b) really made me upset!
On Thursday, I posted about my Data Woes. (And they aren't really woes because 99.8% of the time, I really don't mind looking at the data and working with it.) My frustration the past two years has come from the fact that our 4th graders are coming to us UNGODLY LOW in both math and reading. The third grade team were Mrs. Principal's pets and therefore they never were held accountable for this data.
On Friday I had the day off because I had a follow up appointment for The Youngest for an ADHD evaluation we had done. I had totally forgotten we had the data meeting on the 18th when I scheduled the appointment. So I told Mr. New Principal that if he put 4th grade first, I would come in for the meeting because Miss 4/5 split is only a 2nd year teacher and still intimidated by the data review process and Miss Long Term 4th Grade is a sub whose only been with us for about three weeks. It would be TOTALLY unfair to leave the two of them hanging! So I went in for this meeting and HOLY CRUD. What was revealed to us makes all of our data make total sense but also really pissed me off. I shall explain.
A few years ago, our district partnered with the Institute for Learning out of the University of Pittsburgh. Our former superintendent had connections there and blah blah. Well their job was to streamline our writing curriculum and provide resources and units of study for the whole K-5 system. Which they did. But the units were written by researchers who had obviously never been in a classroom with actual children before. The "mini-lessons" were not mini....they often would take 45 minutes of TEACHER TALKING before the kids did any writing. And the writing was something like "make a list of three things about _______". It was terrible.
Third grade had back-to-back units of study. They literally only did these units of study there was no directive regarding any other type of writing. So the writing ability of these kids was majorly stilted because they did not authentic writing. Mr. New Principal helped proctor the MEAP in Miss Long Term 4th Grade's class because she had only been there a week when the MEAP started. He told us he was FLOORED walking around monitoring at how these kids can't even write a paragraph. I mentioned that some can barely write a sentence, let alone a paragraph!
So Miss 2nd Grade, my former team mate, who is our school improvement chair was in the meeting to and dropped a bomb on us all. The third grade team took those units of study to heart....and they taught them exactly as prescribed in the lessons. All of the other grades had units of study as well but we knew better--we taught the concept but tweaked the lessons to be kid friendly, provide the scaffolding needed and most important, have the kiddos put pen to paper! The third grade team did not do this. Therefore, they talked AT the kids for up to 40 minutes a day for writing and because something had to give, they only taught math for 30 minutes a day. 30 MINUTES A DAY?! (Sorry for shouting...)
For the last two years the directive has been 60 minutes for math. I have been known to teach math for TWO HOURS because of the calendar math that I do, homework review, the lesson and then intervention/games. They taught math for 30 freaking minutes and expected these kids to make gains. So they come to us barely knowing how to add or subtract with regrouping and its MY NAME on their MEAP, not the teacher they had last year. I was so pissed!
Moreso because I have had AH-MAZE-ING growth for my kids every year that I have been at my current school and the third grade team has had the worst data for all of the years I've been there. They were never split up. They were not displaced. But I was?? What a joke.
We pointed this out to Mr. New Principal and he said "well that isn't going to happen again." I even told him how I feel like its unfair to judge US by this current data because if they only had 30 minutes of math a day, compared to an hour or more that everyone else got, we now have to catch them up on 3rd grade concepts but also teach them 4th grade concepts. No wonder they don't know their math facts!
It really burns me up that I have always busted my butt to do the best for the kids--which sometimes means NOT following the curriculum they give us to a T because I'm wise enough to know it isn't kid friendly. But they just taught it as given. No wonder my kids hate writing. They think it means I yak at them for 45 minutes (and I don't -- we do a ton of writing in my room). I'm so mad for my kids but also mad for my 4th grade team. We have our work cut out for us because of someone else's stupidity. Not cool.
The silver lining? When Mr. New Principal saw the data, heard about the third grade team's crap and realized we were up a creek without the proverbial paddle, he said, "what do you ladies need from me?" And since I'm the big mouth of the team who isn't afraid to stand up for us, I said, "we need a day--a day where all three of us have a sub and we can just WORK. Work on this data, work on groupings, work on getting our interventions in place so these kids don't go to 5th grade not knowing what they need to know." Bless that man's heart because no sooner than those words left my lips, he said, "Done. How about next Friday?"
It's a dawn of a new era at my school and I'm so grateful to Mr. New Principal for giving us the support we need. I can guarantee it wouldn't have happened last year.