The last two weeks have seen a couple of promising kinesthetic activities in precal, one for function transformations and one for a unit circle review. Most days I'm liking having three sections of this class, and I think I'm figuring out how to approach them each differently rather than seeing the first ones as practice for the last.
It's definitely the nicest schedule I've ever had: 3 sections of precal on the same day, 2 sections of AP stats on the same day. Thank goodness! I can use the breathing room to get my head around the stats course.
These weeks also saw the first tests in both classes, which made me start stressing about all of the policies around testing that cause stress and confusion in me and the ss. So, I asked the kids to help me think it through.
Started with AP stats, and the two things that bother me the most about retests: preparation and test security.
I don't want to waste anyone's time giving them a test they're not ready for. How can I make sure a student is ready for a retake?
It sucks that I have to worry about this so much, but I do. It's not fair to give a test on different days; the information is out there and I know students talk. I also can't make infinite versions of a test that cover the same material at the same level of difficulty (or I'd never have time for anything else).
It felt good to be honest and open with the students, rather than demanding and giving orders. It felt like they understood my concerns, and the ideas they floated ended up, with a little nudging, right where I was thinking in the first place. Of course, this is a decision I need to make as a teacher, but at least I involved them in it. Here's where we ended up, and the language I put into our class's assessment document:
1. Revise the original test: Get help, go over the questions you missed, figure out what you were missing, and how to produce a correct response.
2. Schedule a face-to-face conference with me through email or calendar invitation. My free times are posted on GC. Pick one and make an appointment to show me your improved understanding in person.
3. Retests will be scheduled for the next reasonable Thursday afternoon during study sessions in the MRC. This will be the only time the retest is offered.
So the next day was precal. I share quite a few students between the two classes, and I felt like we'd covered it pretty well with stats. I presented the procedure above, with the help of the students from the stats class, asked for feedback, and asked them to help me think about the other big mess when it comes to testing: what to do if we're absent for a scheduled test?
This conversation didn't feel so great, because there doesn't seem to be a great way to do it, especially keeping in mind test security and my inability to write lots of different tests. It did bring up a great deal of questions that the students had about the (admittedly complicated) assessment procedures I already have in place. So at least we got to clear some of that up. Here's what I ended up putting together for the documentation:
Absences on testing days:
In the event that a student has a planned absence on a day when a test is scheduled, that student should make arrangements to take the test before they leave for their absence.
In the event that a student misses a test due to unforeseen events, the student should contact me by email the day of the absence to schedule a time to take the test. This time must be within two school days of the original test. If a student fails to meet these requirements, they will need to take the scheduled retest for that assessment.
I put this up on Classroom over the long weekend and asked students to take a look (I also left an escape clause in the documents that I'll hopefully never need to use). I'll give some time Monday and Tuesday for discussion, but then we're all writing up these policies in our own words in an email to our parents so I can be sure everyone's on the same page.
I hope doing things this way, when I can, and even if I end up making the final decisions myself, will lead to a greater general understanding of the policies of the class, and realities of running a classroom.