Taking Notes

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jul 06 2011

on “meaningful learning for kids”

There are officially only 2 days left of institute!

Our school’s official slogan throughout institute has been: “Meaningful learning for kids, empowered leadership for adults.”  In spite of all the efforts I make to be a positive polly, deep down inside of me lives a bitter, bitter cynic, a negative nancy who sometimes escapes to come up with sarcastic comments.  It was this secret cynic in me who has considered the unofficial, or “accurate” slogan for the summer to be: “Questionable learning for kids, severe sleep deprivation for adults.”

But don’t worry y’all, here comes the magical unexpected plot twist: positive polly has finally and decisively triumphed over negative nancy!

Here’s how it happened:

Our summer growth goal for our kids (as dictacted by TFA) was for each student to make a 6 point improvement in their DRA score.

Here are the results for our 10 3rd grade students we have tested thus far: 1 student fell just short of the goal, improving by only 4 points (this student was already testing at an early 5th grade level), 1 student met the goal exactly, improving by 6 points, 1 student exceeded the goal, improving by 9 points, but the other 7 all MORE THAN DOUBLED their growth goals, improving by at least 12 or more points in just 4 weeks.

The sense of accomplishment and the pride on our kids faces were incredible, and served as a major confidence boost for them going into the CRCT test which they all took this morning.

A couple caveats to satisfy the cynics out there: 1) some of our kids admittedly had a lot of room to improve, 2) We are not expert proctors of the DRA test, 3) the DRA test is a diagnostic administered and tracked by us, and finally 4) the DRA results have no bearing on whether our kids will advance to the 4th grade.

However, given all those caveats, it is extremely important for us to have seen that, at least on some level- meaningful learning did occur in our classroom this summer.

Our kids are arguably the most rambunctious group in the school, they are sassy, loud, and energetic- but they really do love to learn.  Their improvement has validated our claim all along that, yes our kids are rowdy- but only because they are so engaged with the material!  We couldn’t be more proud of them.

I won’t go as far as to attribute our kids’ success to any dynamic teaching that we were able to do- because in all honesty my collab and I probably did a lot more learning than our kids.  BUT what it does prove is that even the so-called ‘problem’ kids, the ones who have already repeated, who are constantly sent out of class, whose parents are on speed dial, even these kids, when given the right attention, are capable of catching up to their peers.

And that is exactly the opportunity we had this summer: with 4 (albeit inexperienced) teachers to only 13 students our kids finally got the attention they needed to succeed.  And they did succeed.

The goal now is for that taste of success to help solidify the confidence and work ethic we have tried to instill in our students this summer so that they can bring it with them into the upcoming school year and continue to build on the momentum they have made!

One Response

  1. Vanessa

    Its important to take time to celebrate your successes! You should be proud of your accomplishment (!!)and I hope you remember to always look back on this moment during times of challenge and doubt.

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Metro Atlanta
Elementary Education

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