We had to set a department goal. The district sets goals for us based on the End Of Course (EOC) tests from last year. It's (96%-last year)/2 + last year so roughly "halfway to percect" from wherever you are. Since our pass rates for Alg1 were about 6% last year, that puts us just past 51% this year. HOWEVER, it's worth noting that the state-wide pass rates are only 37%. Sooooo ... we set our own goal at 30%. While that doesn't seem outlandishly optimistic at face-value, it would put us in line with the "high-performing" high schools in our district. (Wait, you ask, does that mean your district performs below the state level? Not when you figure in the middle school algebra students. Those classes are generally closer to 100 anyway. Does this suggest, you ask, that if kids aren't ready for Alg 1 in 8th grade, they really never are? THAT, friends, is the topic of another post.)
Tuesday was the easily the worst PD I have ever sat through. It was titled "Successful transitions to block scheduling" or something like that, but block scheduling never really came up. It was very old-school, I thought, and wasn't at all what he needed. He gave lot of strategies, and he wasn't wrong exactly (except the time he had us turn-and-talk about the definition of "overture" and told us that was an example of a higher order thinking strategy...) He repeatedly emphasized that the handouts were not copyrighted, so I'm sure it's ok if I share this one with you:
BUT my principal always tells me to try to get just.one.thing out of any PD, so I tried. My One Thing this time was something barely said in passing, but it's this: If you assign homework on Monday, and it's due Wednesday, when will they do it? Wednesday morning. If you want them to do it while the lesson is still fresh, make it due Tuesday, the day your class doesn't meet. I think I'm going to try this. I suspect I'll get some push-back from kids who says they shouldn't have to walk past my door on days they don't have my class, but I'm going to try anyway. I'll let you know.
Wednesday and Thursday were more procedural things like faculty handbook. Friday, on the other hand, was designed to be Procedural Plus. See, our school is co-located with another school. We are an arts magnet, and they are a science/technology magnet. Doesn't that sound like the best of both worlds under one roof? Except it's not. We are an under-selected Title 1 school that struggles with our reputation. They are a state-level award-winning magnet. This creates a lot of tensions. Friday's PD was both faculties together, to hash out common procedures for all kinds of things - hall passes, vending machines, facility use - that had in the past caused problems because of their inconsistency. Both schools have new principals this year, and I'm excited to see how well they are working together. I'm also please to see them set the tone for how the two schools are going to cooperate.
Great news: One of the History teachers stepped forward this week to say he'd taught math before and would do it again for the good of the school. Yay! It'll be a lot easier to hire a social studies teacher than a math teacher 2 days before school starts. :) I gave up my Honors Geometry class to pick up one Algebra 2 class. This is good because it lets him keep his AP Gov, and also he and I can work together. Win/win!
There is SO much energy, and SO much excitement in the building, it's infectious. It's also exhausting. My room is completely void. I don't know if the teacher before me wasn't a math teacher, or if he/she took everything, but there was nothing in the cabinets but trash. Not even a single dry-erase marker. No protractors, no compasses, no books, nothing. It's frankly overwhelming. At least I still have Monday to work on turning this room into a classroom where someone would actually want to come. Where I actually want to come for the next 180 days!