29 kids and the Common Core

At least a third of them are behavior problems. Some of that is acerbated by there being 29 children and one adult in the room. With a smaller class size some of them might behave better due to receiving more individual attention and help. I have two kids from Special Ed Pre-K who are still special ed. in that they can not seem to get anything done without LOTS of individual attention. I have two that get pulled for Speech. I have one who I think is undiagnosed but could be in the Autism spectrum and another who started 4 weeks late, has a late August birthday and knows NOTHING. He’s ruined two glue sticks in two days by twisting the glue all the way out and then mashing it. Probably 60 % of my class is considered as non-English speaking, or very limited.

They have revamped the Common Core assessments that we do (AGAIN) and they are much more difficult to administer. They have changed our electronic grade book again (for the third year in a row). We had a meeting on Tuesday, and grade levels were discussing some of the assessments we were supposed to be doing, (new ones, with no training).  We used to have a 50 minute “intervention” time in the morning when we did Tier 2 interventions for those children who needed extra help to make progress.  This year they changed the intervention time to “whole group focus skill time”.  Alternating weeks between Language Arts and Math.  We are supposed to use the gradual release model of teaching.  I do, We do, You do together, and You do by yourself.  Then on Friday we are supposed to administer a 5 item quiz on the focus skill.  On the following Tuesday, we turn in our compiled results.   It’s just truly amazing. On Tuesday we were trying to figure out just what that would LOOK LIKE IN KINDERGARTEN and were a little frustrated. Near the end, our instructional leader mentioned to the whole staff that we (kindergarten, without actually naming us) were complaining too much and weren’t being productive. And it’s CLEAR that they have NO concept of what the issues that we are facing really are.

Here’s a sample of what the Common Core Math exam has on it for Kindergarten, (items changed slightly)

Make a group of ten ones (students do this on their own) Now using that set of 10, compose a group of ten ones and some more to make 16. Draw a picture or write an equation to match your work.

Using a set of 10, you cannot make 16. Yet that’s the way I read it………

Second example:

Make a set of 14. Now decompose that group of 14 by making a group of 10 ones and some more. Draw a picture or write an equation to match your work.

I know they use the words compose and decompose in the CCSS (Common Core State Standards) but they are stupid terms, they aren’t in any of our math materials (I’m sure they will be in the NEW math materials that reflect the CC, but they are dumb terms. I could just see going into the grocery store and asking a checker or even a bank teller to “decompose” a $20 bill into smaller bills……. I’m calling it Zombie Math.

One of my friends over at Kindergaten Today wrote a nice post today……..

Well, It’s Official- we lose a kindergarten teacher and each gain 7-8 kids…..

The district had “count day” last Friday and our Principal received the adjusted school staffing numbers based on actual enrollment (instead of the previous projected enrollment) and we lost two teachers at our school.  This caused a variety of adjustments throughout the school and ultimately resulted in them cutting one kindergarten class and adding one first grade.  So we met as a grade level and divided the one teacher’s class up into the other three remaining classes and starting next Wednesday, I will have 28 students in my class instead of the current 21. I KNEW it was too good to last.  At least I’ll have a few days to get the room and class ready for them.  The kindergarten teacher who lost her class will be moving up to first which she has taught before.

Funny one the other day,  I was testing the kids on what letters they knew, and I asked one kid what the letter was.  He said, “B”.  I asked, and what sounds do B’s make?”  He said, “Buzzzzzzzzz…….”

Gotta love them.

The new year….

Well, we are entering our third week and we each only have 21 students (normally we have around 30).  Of course THAT was too good to be true so the principal informed the kinder teachers today that she needed to move one of us to Second and split those kids up between the other three teachers.  I guess Wednesday when we have a common preparation time, she wants to meet and discuss it……

Oh, joy.  Nobody wants to move.  We have each spent literally hundreds of dollars of our own money on our classes this year and now she wants one of us to basically throw all of that away and start over on a different grade level. In a different, smaller room, with more kids.

Like I said,  “Oh, joy.”

More on the Common Core Exam

So here is the breakdown of how the District explains my problem with the scoring in the math portion of our Common Core Exam.

Math

Emergent                      Approaches                   Meets

.00-120.49                  120.50-161.49                161.50-169.00

Those are points possible on the test and how they broke them down.

Counting to 100 has a point value of – 101 (since we start at zero)

Skip counting to 100 from 0 equals – 11 points

Writing numbers from 0-21 equals – 21 points

Counting objects – 10 points

Comparing numbers – 5 points

Addition and subtraction –  5 points (listen to a number story, and correctly write a number sentence and do the math)

Recognise and name 2 and 3 D objects in the environment.  -8 points

 Use correct terms to describe objects location – 8 points

Clearly someone with a math background did not decide how to score this test.  Do they REALLY want to disproportionately value rote counting that much over the other standards?  Counting by ones to 100 and skip counting by 10’s to 100 is 122 of the points or 72% of all possible points.  Two of the eight standards assessed account for 72% of the score.  That’s not right.  Next year I should allocate 72% of my math time to those two standards.

The girl in my previous post scored a total of 119 points because of only counting to 49.  She would still have had to count to 92 to meet the standard.  In my experience, if they can count to 92, they can count to 100.

And they scored it differently for ELA .  There were 15 standards evaluated in ELA.  If a student got maximum points on all standards except words, and they met the standard with words at 50 words they would earn 179 points.  If they miss 7.51 points out of 179 points, they drop from Meeting the Standard to Approaches the Standard.  That is such a narrow margin.

Common Core State Standards and Merit Pay

Our district, along with the rest of the country, is inching towards merit pay.  One of the steps they have put in place this year is a Common Core State Standard assessment.  In kindergarten, since there is no baseline data, we have to administer the assessment four times a year.  Once at the very beginning of the year, the first week, before we even have routines and procedures down.  Then we do it three more times at the end of each grading period.   Testing.

We have just finished up the final, end of year CCSS exam.  Our principal wanted us to pull a report from the program where we record our results.  The data became available over the weekend and I looked at it.  Basically, the “Big Picture” report takes all of the math standard results, and all of the ELA results and condenses them into one math “grade” and one ELA “grade”.  The grades are, Emergent, Approaches, Meets, and Exceeds.

Fine,  except for this, and it’s only one example.  I have one little girl, who “meets” the standard on EVERY Common Core State Standard in math except one.  She can’t count to 100 yet,  she  only counted to 49.  She is rated as Emergent on this one standard.  Eight standards tested, 7 out of 8 meeting the standards but that’s not enough.  Because she was rated Emergent on this ONE standard, she is rated Emergent on ALL of math.  That’s not right.

In reading, they have to know 50 out of 100 sight words to meet the standard, 49 is approaching the standard, 50 meets the standard, and 51 exceeds.  There is no wiggle room.  Knowing 35 words is still Emergent and knowing 35 words gets the same rating as knowing 6 words.

Six Weeks Until School is Over

And we started the end of the year testing for the Common Core State Standards.  Why open the testing window so early?  I know it will take me forever to do it all, but SIX WEEKS!   I have to keep reminding myself that I have to individually test each kid on 100 sight words, etc, etc.  But still!

I’m sorry that I haven’t blogged as much this year, but I decided I wasn’t going to fill this blog with negativity.  And it’s hard.  I really don’t like where we are at as teachers right now.  And it isn’t just my district.  I follow my education blogs on Google Reader and I have noticed that many of the educators I follow aren’t posting as much lately as well.

On the plus side, from what little testing I’ve managed to do so far, my kids have made amazing progress.  I love this time of the year in kindergarten.  Most of them are really starting to put all of the dots together.  I can see amazing progress, even in my very low kids.  I have to remind myself that they only look really bad when compared to the high ones.  As far as the standards go, they are still low, but they have made great progress, especially for kids that knew no English at the beginning of the year.  Our district has a list of 100 high frequency words for kindergarten and they want them to know at least 50 of them.  Our Trophies Reading program used to have about 32 or so words, so we have had to step it up a bit this year.   My highest readers are reading on a Second Grade level.  I had two girls fighting over an Amelia Bedelia book today, it had a reading level of 2.3, and they could read it.

Oh, and then there is the kid that moved in from out-of-state a month ago and has less than 60 days in the classroom for all year to date.  I tested him on the alphabet and he knew the letter “O” and a few sounds.  No words.  I don’t “get” some parents.

Anyway, I’m still alive.  My wife thinks I should move to 1st grade and smaller class sizes.  But it’s also smaller rooms, different curriculum to learn, etc.

How to make your kindergarten teachers feel valued and appreciated………

  • Give all other grade levels a common preparation period every day.  Don’t give the 4  kindergarten teachers any, not even one,  but expect them to collaborate
  • Have kindergarten be last for everything; last for breakfast, last for lunch
  • Call full staff meetings that everyone is required to attend, but talk about things that don’t apply to kindergarten
  • Do the same on staff development days
  • Over 4 years gradually take away all the aides and support for kindergarten, but give them 30-32 students
  • Increase the amount of testing and evaluating,  then expect the curriculum to still be taught  while the teachers are testing,  don’t even supply a substitute for the teacher so that they can test while the class is  being taught, even though subs have been provided in the past and still are at other sites in the district.
  • Tell them to identify the 5-6 lowest students in their class and commit to having them “at grade level” by the end of the year
  • Don’t provide any help or support to the teachers for the 1-3 highly disruptive students in each class
  • Pass a law that says any student will be retained that misses 20 or more days in a year but don’t retain anyone, even the ones missing 60 or more days
  • Pile more and more assessments and programs on the teachers but take very little away; add to – don’t replace
  • Fully implement Common Core State Standards in Kindergarten through 2nd grade, but don’t really train anyone.
  • Change the expectations half way through the year.
  • Continue to use the old text books even though they aren’t aligned to the CCSS
  • Tell your kindergarten teachers that they should transfer to another grade level if they don’t like any of this, even though due to cuts, there haven’t been any other openings in 3 years.

And this is why I haven’t posted much lately………….