Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Data in the Mirror

One of the benefits of teaching in Gifted Land is that the assessment results usually look stellar, especially when compared to the masses of students who aren't reaching proficiency.  It's difficult to get people excited about the fact that kids on my caseload aren't necessarily meeting their full potential.  There's a sort of "the gifted kids will be fine" philosophy, particularly when it comes to studying assessment results.

Like all teachers, I blame myself when kids don't succeed.  I realize this is often ridiculous, as success by my standard may be different that success by theirs.  A few years ago, a student of mine took the PSSA (Pennsylvania State Standards Assessment), and finished well ahead of her peers.  She took that time to write a multi-stanza poem on the evils of standardized testing with each line beginning with an A,B,C, or D, so that it reflected the lovely array of options available for the test-taker.  I honestly believe that she got more out of that exercise than any of the test preparation strategy lessons or the test itself.  It certainly did more to engage her mind.

This could easily become a diatribe on the evils of testing, or the vast ignorance of acceptable challenges for gifted kids when it comes to Common Core, but I still need positivity and strength to make it through Friday this week, so let's look at the Te@chthought Challenge question of the day:

Describe the process you use in your reflection when studying assessment results. Where does your energy and focus lean?

I've changed my mindset this year.  My SLO (Student Learning Objective required as a hefty percentage of my overall performance evaluation) is measuring the ability of my students to show growth in the metacognitive process.  I'm teaching Habits of Mind and evaluating the kids based upon Webb's Depth of Knowledge's wheel, as they've reflected on independent projects throughout the semester.  

I'm very fortunate to be teaching a "non-tested" subject.  I can deviate from the prescribed syllabus, on occasion, to allow for differentiation based upon student passion and interest.  And there are MANY studies out there to support that metacognitive reflection allows students to more fully engage and retain material.  This year's aha moment was when I realized that focusing my energy on teaching implicit and explicit thinking skills could actually move some of those proficient-range students to the advanced range, just be allowing some reflection on the part of the students.  

I realize I won't see data to support what I'm doing for three years -- I mean that OFFICIAL data provided from the test-gurus, although I've already seen a significant increase in the thought processes and presentations, as students actively reflect on what they have done or are doing, using the Habits of Mind.

I'm somewhat amused as I write this, that the question contains both "energy" and "lean" in the prompt.  The end of the semester makes me feel like I am leaning, A LOT, to save what little energy I have left, as I face the task of getting all of my little ducklings over the final few hurdles together by the last day of the semester.  

As long as I, and they, continue to check out the man in the mirror (go ahead, sing it, you know you want to), the reflection will happen, deepening understanding all around.