A team of algebra and special education teachers in Kingsport, Tennessee is working to use TVAAS data to set individual goals for students. The department’s Teacher Ambassador, Eva Boster, interviewed four teachers at Dobyns-Bennett High School about their collaboration. Kristen Fabick, Leila Hubbard, Nick Lingerfelt, and Travis Free are all on the Algebra I team at Dobyns-Bennett High. Here they talk about collaborating consistently to identify student trends and troubleshoot misunderstandings, monitoring student progress, and the impact of the Common Core State Standards.
1. How does your team work together to best serve your Algebra I students?
Our team includes two algebra teachers and two special education teachers. Generally, our algebra teacher will introduce the new content on Monday and Tuesday, our special education teacher will lead small groups of students on Wednesday, we will quiz on Thursday, and both teachers will lead intervention and enrichment groups on Friday based on the Thursday quiz data.
We are lucky to share the same planning period, so we meet each day to debrief on the day’s lesson, analyze student data, and plan for the week. We share responsibilities for creating assessments, lesson planning, and preparing materials for activities. Our remediation and enrichment strategies include Math Jeopardy, hands-on stations, computer games for reinforcement, matching with manipulatives (index cards or plastic plates with problems on them), gallery walks (three problems of increasing difficulty at each station and students are assigned to a problem based on their level of achievement), and work stations for review.
2. How do you help your students set goals for the year?
At the start of each year, we pull each student’s projected percentile rank from the TVAAS site.
The student’s projected performance is based on the expectation that he or she will make at least one year’s worth of academic growth in math in one school year. This can be a powerful motivator for students who score far below the state passing rate. We focus on encouraging our students to grow as much as possible; we don’t solely focus on the passing rate.
We put each student’s projected performance for the year into a spreadsheet (see the document below). Based on the student’s projected percentile rank, we estimate the number of questions they will need to answer correctly to earn their projected rank. We use the estimated cut scores for the practice tests to get our best ballpark understanding of the number of questions a student needs to answer correctly. For example, for a student to score in the 64th percentile, he will need to answer about 48 out of 65 questions correctly.
We tell each student the number of questions they need to answer correctly on the end of year assessment in order to make one year’s worth of growth. Students work toward getting this number, or more, throughout the year. This helps students from being discouraged about only getting a 50 on their test because they know that they are increasing the number of questions they are getting correct and therefore are progressing toward their goal.
3. How do you measure whether students are on track to reach their goals?
We administer three benchmark assessments throughout the year. We update our spreadsheet with the number of questions each student answered correctly so that we can monitor whether they are on track to meet their goal on the end of year assessment. For students who are below projection, we create targeted plans for each student to ensure we close any gaps in understanding.
We also create practice sheets for each student based on the standard they need the most help with.
We give each student an individualized report of the standards they struggle with. Students are empowered by their reports because it is tailored just for their needs.
4. How have the Common Core state standards impacted your classroom?
We have focused on teaching linear equations through an entire unit based on tasks (a mathematical problem or concept which requires complex thinking and analysis). Students have had real-world contexts for every problem they have looked at and have been able to form a deeper understanding of rate of change; x- and y-intercepts; and relationships between tables, graphs, ordered pairs, equations, and contextual interpretations.
Since the learning has been task-oriented, we have done very little formal, pre-planned notes or direct instruction. Most of the teaching has occurred as students have noticed patterns, inconsistencies with prior understandings, or different solution paths. We use specific and leading questions to help students form generalizations, deduce new conclusions, and find patterns in the math students use.
It is imperative that our Algebra I team meet often to discuss issues in our classrooms regarding tasks that were beneficial, tasks that we wanted to change in structure or wording, and different questions or solution paths that students came up with. Perhaps the most important reason we meet often is to make sure we are all incorporating the most essential elements of a unit. Without formal note-taking, it is easy to forget to emphasize or ask questions to lead students to think about every important element of the unit. To combat this, we often find ourselves making a checklist of topics, vocabulary, and concepts we need to make sure to incorporate into the tasks student tackle each day.
A more technical version of this interview, one that includes step-by-step instructions on accessing specific TVAAS reports, is available here, Using TVAAS data for student goal setting