. Regurgitated Alpha Bits: Getting Down to Basics

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Getting Down to Basics

My principal, who really is a good person who wants to do what's best for students and teachers, decided to try to put an end to combo classes this year. I whole-heartedly supported this decision, having been a combo teacher for many years.

Combos are tough on the kids because there is no way to not rip them off educationally when teachers must split their time between two grades. It's not like the days before standards-based education when a combo class was made up of the brightest students in the lower grade and the less-bright students in the higher grade and then the teacher just shot for the middle and taught them all the same curriculum.

Now we teach each grade their specific curriculum with all the same requirements as a straight grade. Remember, each grade's curriculum is designed to fill a whole school day, but combo class teachers must split their days across two grade levels. See? There's no way to NOT rip those poor kids off.

So the decision was made to try to avoid them this year. Our Gifted and Talented classes have almost always been combos, so we added many of our high achievers from regular education to those classes so that they could have enough students to justify straight grades instead of combos.

Fine enough. The teaching that goes on in the Gifted classes is the kind of high-quality teaching we wish we all could do with our students. I was very comfortable sending off some high achievers to GATE.

Then this week my grade level got an email from the principal asking that we regular ed teachers select six more high achievers to transfer to the GATE class because the numbers were too low in that class and too high in ours. (We're full in regular ed.)

Now my comfort level with the whole "straight grade" concept is getting a little less comfortable. In an effort to make straight grades, we've already picked the advanced students and very high proficient students and sent them away. Now you want the ones I have left too?

So I start looking at student data and got some good news/bad news.

The good news: I don't have to give anyone to the GATE class.

The bad news: I don't have any students who are even proficient at last year's standards. Ok, I have one. She literally made proficient by 1 point in Language Arts. She gets no work done in class and I have yet to see a stitch of homework out of her. I doubt she'll qualify for GATE.

My entire class, except her I guess, is made up of students who are at the Basic level, Below Basic Level, and Far Below Basic Level in Language Arts and Math.

Man, that sure explains a lot.

1 comment:

The Bus Driver said...

Thats dissapointing when you know some kids are going to get ripped off by the system, and when you know that other kids wont get the full advantage of what the system has to offer because of the no child left behind "theory".

Combo classes are good when they are taught theoretically the way you stated, as one class.. but having to swap time and curriculum between 2 different grades is assinine and completely bonkers.