Where's the Music?: A Line of Inquiry
Having administered the first Interim Assessment (I.A.), it was clear that there was a problem. In previous years, I had worked with students in similar academic standing, but this group had more potential and had less behavioral problems than previous years. I needed to understand why their grades were so low and why they didn't appear to be motivated? After modifications, revisions, lunch tutoring, and homework support in class, there was still clearly a disconnect. After each I.A., it was a departmental practice to create an item analysis to evaluate progress. My junior class’ average and scores were the lowest. Each student’s exam was individually scrutinized to identify areas of weakness. This scrutiny became a major "ingredient" of the data collection. As observed, the class average of 46% was 8-17% lower than the freshmen and sophomores who did the same assessment. There was obviously some factor that prevented their academic growth. Most of the students started coming to class with a look of defeat after the first I.A. and were visibly afraid of tests.
How Data was Used to Set the Tune
The culture we create for our children around academic risk-taking did not seem to impact our juniors enrolled in geometry. After conducting informal class discussions as a reflective exercise, the special education teacher and I recognized the common factor. Because of our junior’s academic history, they were convinced they were incapable of getting into colleges to pursue majors about which they were passionate. This feeling magnified when they compared their performance to their fellow juniors who were already doing college-level classes at City University of New York (CUNY) colleges as part of the Early College Initiative (ECI). These juniors were allowed to do general requirements through the initiative, but some had failed courses which put them in academic probation and so were not allowed to do anymore classes (this is an ECI rule).
Next, we started to look into their performance in an SAT prep class. After having a conversation with the math SAT prep teacher, it was clear that their lack of motivation was not unique to geometry. There had to be more socially pressing issues that affected our students' academic performance.