Awesome part of the day: Realizing that in addition to the 75+ pre-AP English sophomores signed up for AP English 3 next year, 21 of my regular grade-level students are also up to the challenge and signed up to take my class next year. I passed out the summer reading assignment and several borrowed copies of The Great Gatsby today. They had to sign to say they were aware of the summer reading assignment. I explained the assignment, told them it was going to be a college-level class, and then told them I absolutely felt they were up to the challenge.
We may have a record-setting 100 students signed up for AP English…this year there were about 70 AP juniors. This is simultaneously terrifying and exhilarating. One other English teacher pointed out to me that “I’m going to have big shoes to fill” – and she meant not just the amazing junior AP teacher that I’m taking over for, but my own shoes, because this year’s kids have liked me enough to want me another year, even if it meant taking a harder class, so I have to be as good or better next year to live up to their expectations. I keep dwelling on my expectations for them, but it hadn’t occurred to me that they also have expectations for me…I’m waiting for an angry email from the counselors trying to make the master schedule to stop sending kids down to switch to my class. I’ve definitely pushed a few tentative ones who really should be AP, but the rest are fully aware of the challenge and taking it on their own. I’m sure we’ll lose a few at the beginning of the year, but I’m so flipping excited for all my regular grade-level students taking the leap and raising their own bar of expectations.
Bad part of the day: We got our state standardized test scores back. After spending such a huge part of our year teaching to the test, our numbers were way below expectations on the writing component. It is a graduation requirement, and kids on the distinguished plan can’t graduate with a distinguished diploma if they can’t get advanced on this test. I am so disappointed; not only did we waste huge chunks of class time trying to get them to write the state-approved expository and persuasive essays, but barely half of them passed muster. Kids who should’ve passed, didn’t, and a few random low-performers did. There were no zeroes – which meant every single kid took it seriously and tried…but many didn’t succeed.
There didn’t seem to be any trend to the data, and suddenly I found myself second-guessing my teaching abilities. For a moment, I was thankful I wasn’t teaching sophomore English next year because obviously, I suck at it. I teach my butt off all year and my kids still can’t perform. If my job was currently tied to test scores, I might be out of one. After realizing this negative train of thought, I got very, very angry – I feel like I’ve poured every ounce of my being into my job in the last ten months; I’ve cried, I’ve laughed, and I’ve loved every worthwhile part of my current career choice. I’m an inexperienced teacher, certainly – but I’m not a bad one. But according to these blasted test results, I am. Since the AP curriculum writing conveniently looks nothing like the state standardized test writing, I am completely unsure how to teach my students to do both. The state test is required for graduation; the AP test gets them college credit. My plan for my students after they present their websites next week is to write persuasive letters to the legislature and governor, explaining how they really feel about their tests. I’ll weed out the ones that might get some student arrested for threats, and mail the rest to the representative. I don’t have an issue with holding teachers and students accountable to some standard, but doing it by way of these arbitrary, constantly changing, subjective testing is ridiculous and demoralizing. Something seems wrong when an Eagle Scout with a 4.0 is declared unable to graduate by the state because he’s 10 points short on a 4-hour standardized test…