Two pieces of undeniably good news

I got my evaluation back from my assistant principal today. We don’t really need to go into the details of how our evaluation system works; suffice it to say that my final score was 3.88/4, which is the highest final score I’ve ever received, and my third or fourth year in a row at Highly Effective. I will probably never manage a perfect score for various reasons so only losing twelve hundredths of a point over the course of the four classroom observations and two official goals is pretty damn good.

I also spent parts of sixth and seventh hour crunching NWEA data. I’ve talked about the NWEA before; it’s one of the standardized tests I at least kinda like– it’s over fast, it’s given multiple times a year (but still eats a lot less time than the single administration of the ILEARN does) and it focuses on measuring individual student growth and doesn’t bother with a pass/fail cutscore. It also does this thing where everybody is measured on the same scale– it goes up to like 350 or something like that but a 230 or so is about what an 8th grader is expected to get on the Math test at the beginning of the year, where a first grader might be shooting for a 180 and a high school senior a 270. Two of those numbers are made up but you get the basic idea.

Long story short, my numbers were phenomenal. I got an average of a year’s growth out of these kids between the test that was administered the week before I got there and the one I gave them a couple of weeks ago– a year’s worth of growth in basically one semester. My two Honors classes in particular posted huge gains. This is probably getting too far into the weeds, but check this out:

This is my first hour class. The plus signs are Math and the squares are LA. Now, you’d expect everybody to be to the right on the “achievement” part of the graph, since they’re honors kids, but there’s nothing about honors classes that guarantees high growth, and compare how high the pluses are to how high the squares are. It’s even more stark in sixth hour:

Only four kids from that group didn’t manage high growth. That’s outstanding. And by comparing my kids to their own LA scores I know I’m not running into any statistical bullshittery; they flat-out improved more in Math than they did in LA, and by a pretty good margin once you pull all the numbers together. That’s as clear a teacher effect as I know how to demonstrate.

“But wait, Mr. Siler!” you might point out. “Didn’t your kids have a month with no teacher, and therefore possibly score more poorly on the second administration than they might otherwise, thus leading to high growth as they get back what they lost?”

A reasonable question, and while I’m not going to post the graphs, I also looked at how they did against the first test of the year, when a missing teacher wasn’t a problem, and the gains are still as stark. My other classes don’t look quite this good– again, the honors kids really came through for me– but they still look pretty goddamn good.

I may just have my mojo back, y’all.

Remind me of this post in three days, when I’m drained by the last week and never want to teach again. 🙂

Okay, guys, last chance

I may or may not have girlishly squeed, possibly more than once, while watching this trailer. If this movie, featuring two of my favorite comic book heroes of all time, does not get me back into a movie theater, the MCU is offically-really-I-mean-it-this-time, no-bullshit dead to me forever:

On Arabic and learning to read

ليس لدي فكرة عما يقوله هذا

According to Duolingo, I have been studying Arabic daily for one hundred and forty-seven days. And Duolingo does a lot of things, but one of the things that Duolingo has not managed to do in 147 days of daily practice is teach me to read Arabic. One would think that would be an early priority! It is not. Duolingo teaches almost exclusively through word recognition– what teachers used to call the “whole language” method of teaching reading, and for the most part genuinely seems uninterested in actually providing explanations for things unless absolutely necessary. Even then it kind of hides them in corners of the app and finds ways to make them useless anyway. There is actually a “Learn the letters” section! I have been doing lessons in there for months and it still hasn’t gotten to half the letters.

Whole language is bullshit, y’all. Even as an interested adult it’s an insanely rough way to learn a new language. It means that in-context I can recognize words but if you throw a sentence at me with no context I may not even be able to figure out all the letters. After five months. Keep in mind I already read Hebrew and once taught myself to read German from essentially scratch over a weekend so that I could pass a mandatory translation exam for my degree. I’m good at languages! But this isn’t it. And I also take issue with some of Duolingo’s choices for the sentences and phrases they’re throwing at us. For example:

تلفازي داخل أسدي

Which means “My television is inside my lion” and I swear to God is a sentence that has shown up in my exercises, I believe in a unit called “Express a problem.” That’s not a joke. It’s a real thing. Or this one, during the unit on prepositions, which consisted exclusively of things being in front of or behind things:

هناك زوجتك مع رجل خلف المطعم

That means “There is your wife with a man behind the restaurant,” and … okay! Sure! That’s a thing that has probably happened. But I don’t know how to say “hello” or introduce myself yet. They have literally not taught “Hi, my name is _____, how are you?” but I can express trepidation about the eating habits of my lion.

Anyway, over the last few days– because there is no problem so minor that I won’t try to solve it by throwing money at it– I have acquired both a fine set of Arabic alphabet flash cards and a new textbook dedicated specifically to teaching reading. I have learned more about the alphabet in an hour of perusing that book between today and yesterday than I have in five months of Duolingo. Sadly, I have not received further instructions about how to express my feelings about my lion:

أنا أحب أسدي لكني لا أحب أسد جاري.

That’s “I love my lion but I do not love my neighbor’s lion,” and again, no, that’s not a joke.

Because, face it, some of them are dumb

I am putting together a quick and it-should-be easy assignment on the Pythagorean Theorem right now, to make up for an assignment on the Pythagorean Theorem from late last week that did not turn out to be easy. It contains this question:

There is an absolutely 100% certainty that someone will come up to me and say something along the lines of “Why are there four numbers here?” And then I will say “Can you make a triangle with four sides?” And they will say “No.” And then I will say “Well, then, can those sides make a right triangle?” And they will not know the answer, and they will stare at me, with big, cow-like eyes.

I am tired and perhaps a bit crabby.


There are seven differences between this picture and “Before“! Can you find them all?