“It works!”

November 21, 2008
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Today’s test was the second go-round with the new “70% or SSI” rule. I had about 35 not make the cut last time, and I’ve still been wrastlin’ with how best to use the 10 minutes I have them for each day. Originally, the plan was to keep them all in at break for a week. Then I thought I might have a sliding scale; one or days for almost making it, and progressing upward as your score goes downward. But since I’ve been actually trying to do a little remediation during that time, (I’ve been looking at the item analysis in the CPS software, and seeing which questions most of them got wrong, and working on those) I think I have a system figured out.

On day one of SSI, we go over the questions that the majority of them got wrong. On day two, as they come in the door, I hand each of them a 15 question retake version of the test. Score 13+ and you’re done with SSI. On day three we go over the retake with those that didn’t make it again, and they try another retake on day four. The process repeats until they get that 13+. Sometimes it takes awhile in seventh grade.

The retake versions of the test don’t have to be all new each time. To prevent rote memorization of the answers, I reword a T/F so it turns from False to True or just change the order of the questions, or other such quick tricks. By the third version, I can reuse the original test questions. If necessary, I just start randomly rerunning versions. I’ve used the retest process in other situations, but not on such a grand scale.

I still have 6 left who haven’t passed the retake. And today we had another test.

This one had 35 questions, so 70% is 24.5.

“So, the question is…Is the cutoff 25 or 24?”

From those who are never in danger of having to worry about it: “25!!”

From those for whom that 1 point might be all the difference: “24!”

“So what you’re telling me is, at the end of the semester, when your grade is 79.5, you want me to give you the C+?”

From all: “25!”

I had mercy on them (and to try to get the numbers down – we filled too many desks at break this week), and went with 24. Lucky for many (me) that I did; there were at least 4 or 5 in each class who got that magic 24.

One boy, who’s been struggling all year, hasn’t scored better than 50-60something all year. Lately he’s really been working hard. Today after we looked at the results (immediately after, with CPS), and after the woohoos and the phews and the groans had died down, I see ‘Joey’ grinning and pumping his fist. Obviously he had made it (77%), and he was beaming. Almost shouting, he says,

“It WORKS!”

“What’s that Joey?”

“Studying.”

Que milagro!

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“How cute. Like hobos…” (Also: Hank Williams.)

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Mr. Coward has been teaching on the beautiful central coast of California since 1989. He sometimes tweets when he's in the right mood: @mrCinSLO.

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