These day are dedicated to helping my students succeed. Of course that has always been my goal but at the beginning of the year our new principal in no uncertain terms said things could not be business as usual (my paraphrase). You see last year, not one 8th grader scored a 5 or a 6 on the FCAT Writes at our school. That my friend was a wake up call. I examined everything I had taught the year before and realized I needed to begin sooner and do things differently. One of the first things I did was share the State's calibration papers. I showed them two or three examples of the best essays, not a five, not a 4, and not a 3 for goodness sake. I showed only level six.
My reasoning for only showing them Level 6 essays was easy. Why show them what I didn't want them to do???? In some classes, my students actually applauded when I was finished. I still wonder about that. I should have asked. Perhaps they enjoyed hearing a young person's voice talking about a topic they had to write about, and do it with pizzazz! On the other hand they might have enjoyed seeing something concrete to compare to their own writing. Whatever the case we analyzed them for voice which came booming across with passion and enthusiasm. I also pointed out the effective transitions as well as dialogue, metaphors, similes, imagery, onomatopoeia and excellent word choice. It was a feast.
So after numerous practices in organization, flee maps, logic, and elaborations, students have been tested by the county for progress. The last time they were tested, I scored my own students and surprisingly 10 students in my opinion scored a Level 5. That was awesome and I have to admit I am a stingy scorer. I of course look at the big picture since we have to score these holistically but still ten fives! That was monumental for me.
Then at the end of January my students had another OCPS Writes Exam, except this time I wasn't allowed to score my own student's essays. I felt it was a lost opportunity to give them feedback, but I went with the flow and corrected a sizeable group of essays for a seventh grade teacher who will remain nameless. Anyway, my exams were scored by the Language Arts Department head who went to weeklong training during the summer. So I felt he would be accurate and fair.
So on Friday afternoon, could you imagine my surprise when I got my stack of tests back? I started to go through them. I began to see fives, as I hoped. Was I seeing more than last time? Then I saw the first one, a six. Could you fathom my shock when I saw a six!!! That is a perfect score for crying outloud! Not one, not two, but five sixes which are the top score a student can get on these essays. I was speechless! Of course when I walked out of the school I must have been floating because I don't remember touching the ground. I was thrilled for my students who have taken the knowledge I had shared with them and gone running with it!
Now, I go to school tomorrow with the determination to make sure that all of my students succeed. All those who scored a 3 will not be left behind. I am going to make a push for NO CLASSMATES LEFT BEHIND. I plan to develop new graphic organizers to help my ELL's and my weaker students get on board. Then I want to do something different. I plan to get those who got a five or six to share with their classmates how they did it. Why get them involved? It's simple. Sometimes for a young person another young person has the strongest influence.
Now the pressure is on. Very excited is an understatement.