Pacing using Backwards Design and State Tests
Every summer I try to evaluate the classes I taught and how I taught them. I’m sure that most teachers do this. It doesn’t hurt that in Tennessee teachers receive their TVAAS evaluation scores in June, which provides us with an opportunity to reflect on how our students performed on the End of Course state tests. I was pleased with my students’ performance this year, but I know that I should never get comfortable. Next year, I will be teaching a grade level Algebra 2 for the first time and the End of Course for this class is a beast! My main concern for this group of students is pacing. I never want a student to walk into an End of Course feeling unprepared because of something I did or didn’t teach.
The first thing I did before I taught Algebra 2 was look at the End of Course test issued by Tennessee. If you have an End of Course test for your state, you should start there. I learned this many years ago in College when the buzzwords of the time were ‘backwards design’. I now know they aren’t just buzzwords, but a great way to plan anything. When I met with a personal trainer several years ago for the first time, his first question was, “What is your final goal?” This goal dictated my workouts, schedule, and diet. As teachers I feel like we should ask ourselves, “What is our final goal for our students?” My answer is different for each class. For several classes, my answer is that I want them to hate math less when they leave my class. For my honors classes, it is to be prepared for the next level. For my End of Course classes, it is to pass the state test. I hate to reduce my class to a single test at the end of the year, but my job depends on it.
The first thing I did to help students pass the test is analyze the test. I looked at each test and recorded the number of times the state asked questions on certain topics. Pearson stresses that Tennessee provides them with a blueprint for what questions to select and how many and that the sample test is a good model of this.
In Algebra 2, the Tennessee End of Course has 9 questions on Statistics. I used to squeeze this section in at the end of my class if I had time, but with the state putting so much emphasis on this topic on the test, I felt it was necessary for me to place importance on it in my class. The Algebra 2 End of Course has one question on Conic Sections. I love Conic Sections! I still teach them, but I do not spend the two weeks on them that I used to spend on them. We now focus two to three days on them in Algebra 2. The students who really need them will see them again in Pre Calculus.
Here is my analysis of the Tennessee Algebra 1 EOC test.
Here is my analysis of the Tennessee Algebra 2 EOC test.
After I prioritized my list of topics or standards, I try to fit them into a semester long calendar. I created this one page document that lays out my entire semester in one glance. It allows me to start my planning for the entire year and make sure everything ‘fits’ in by the End of Course test. The worst feeling is to be two weeks from the test and realize you have 4 chapters left to cover. I fill in the boxes on the page in pencil with the standard or lesson I plan on teaching that day. It is an evolving document, so I erase and change often. This paper stays in the front of my lesson plan book all semester. I try to always keep my eye on the big picture or goal for my class.
I know that some teachers would argue that ‘covering’ the material is not sufficient enough. I agree. I try to not just cover the material, but look at it in as much depth as possible on a limited time schedule. I do not teach all of the standards equally, because not all of the standards are weighted equally on the test. Yes, there are some things that get left out. As a professional, it is my job to make those decisions.
I wish someone would have walked me through this pacing process as a student teacher. Instead, I was handed a pacing guide and said this is what you will teach and how long you will teach it. I never had input nor did I give it much thought. I now make my own pacing guides. I know I may lose this freedom soon. I fear the days of standardized learning are coming, but until then, I will continue to pace my students in way so they can be successful.