Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Day 29: PSAT

The "success" formula for schools in Pennsylvania has many factors.  The main factor is how the students in the school perform on standardized tests.  Our district, like most low-income schools does not perform as well as we would like.

The state, in their infinite wisdom allows for alternate ways for districts to boost their overall scores.  One of these ways has been to have high levels of attendance for the PSAT, which those schools have to buy.

Today, we gave the PSAT to our 10th and 11th grade students.  The 7th grade came in at the normal time, but the 8th, 9th and 12th grades were operating on a 3-hour delay.  In order to accommodate the time shift, we skip the first four periods of day.

It just so happens that I teach during the first four periods of the day.

When my 6th period showed up, they were burned out from 3 hours of marathon testing (and out of 30 kids on my roster, I had 11 in class.)  So I let them relax.  They hung out and talked about jobs and comic books.  I got involved in several different conversations and I was reminded again, that more than anything, our students need someone who sees them as a person and not just a number or score.

Relationships are vital to student success, especially in environments where school is often seen as something to get through.

The kids in Physics spent the double period working on a velocity and acceleration lab.  They've been voicing concerns for the last week or so about the lack of hands-on activities so I had to get into a topic where I could use a lab.  We have some pretty amazing motion sensors and I wanted them to do a "walk the graph" activity.  Unfortunately, we don't have the computers to hook the sensors to, so in the closet they sit.

Instead, they calculated velocity and acceleration using ramps of different heights.  Technology doesn't automatically make a lesson better, just as not having it doesn't make it worse.

Would I like to have a higher level of technology for my labs?  Yes I would.

Do I need it to be an effective teacher?

I don't think so.  If I had it, I would use it, but I don't need it.

Technology doesn't make bad teachers good, but can help good teachers to be great.

On a completely unrelated note, I could make a lot less work for myself by simply incorporating the phrase "you have 5 minutes left, please start cleaning up!" into regular usage.


  1. Same here... PSAT's for all our 9th, 10th and 11th graders. Seniors that needed to make up work came in to work on that. Testing, testing, testing..... afternoon classes talked about the POW - Function Challenge and what they need to review or reassess on. Definitely more relaxed than normal.

  2. Ever heard of modeling curriculum? Originally out of ASU. I love it for 9th grade physics and my honors 12th Physics. It is free and doesn't require a book, though the software and probes are really useful. I can also send it to you if your interested.

    1. That would be fantastic! I have some good resources, but I'm spending a lot of time looking for stuff I like.

    2. Frank Noschese and Jerrid Kruse are two big physics modelers on Twitter. I've tried to incorporate some of it in my Integrated Chemistry/Physics class. It really helps students see the connections between the theory (the "math") and how we experience the principles every day.


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