May Your Roads Reach

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Feb 22 2013

Have I failed them already?

Two weeks.

I’ve been teaching them for only two weeks, and I’m terrified that I’m doing something dreadfully wrong.

Today they took their unit exam for The Canterbury Tales.  The average score on the objective portion of the test (25 questions, multiple choice and matching) was 63%.  At our school, 70% is the cutoff for a passing grade.  Scores ranged from 28 to 92, but I only had two A’s and four B’s out of approximately 60 students.

These results beg the question, “What happened?”

My first thought was that maybe I created a poor test.  Maybe it doesn’t assess what I taught them.  Maybe the questions are misleading.  Or maybe, just maybe, I made mistakes in my answer key!

No mistakes in my key.  No misleading or overly complicated questions.  All of the answers are easily found on the worksheets and study guides we completed in class, to the point that my roommate, who never read The Canterbury Tales and wasn’t in class with us, was able to answer the first 12 questions correctly just by finding the answers on the introductory handout and review sheet.

Were my lessons that incomprehensible that they overcomplicated things?  I was officially observed twice in the two weeks, and my mentor teacher was present for over half of the lessons.  I’ve never once received feedback that I wasn’t being clear or that my methods weren’t effective.

Again, I ask, “What happened?”  We even had an entire day designated for review.  We played a review game, they asked questions about the pilgrims, and we talked through open-ended questions that I hoped would prepare them to think about the text more broadly.

Do we need to review study skills?  They’re in 12th grade.  I would have hoped that basic study skills have been taught and reinforced throughout middle school and high school, but I think I’m going to review them regardless.

I’m not sure what else to do.  I know my students are capable of understanding these texts.  I don’t want to make future tests “easier,” because I really do have high expectations for my students and I refuse to just push them through to graduation, but I already feel like I’m holding their hands as much as I can.

What is the next step?

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