Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Bad Test Scores - Failure of Flipping?

Well, it happened.  Although grades increased significantly on the first unit tested after flipping, the latest unit test scores were awful!  This most recent test assessed my students' abilities to calculate surface area and volume of prisms.  The results in all three classrooms were so very, ugly.

Is this an indictment on the failure of flipped teaching in my classroom? The results of our first unit test in a flipped structure was stellar! So what happened!!??  I was taken aback.  Had the flipped class contributed to the failure of student understanding? Let me just end the suspense and say it now -- the flipped model had nothing to do with the poor scores.  Read on...

First, let me recount the facts and then present an analysis of why the scores tanked.

  1. Unit 10 involved finding area, surface area and volume in nine (9) lessons. (One lesson on finding the volume of a cylinder was skipped because the lesson did not align to the standards as dictated by the state of Washington.)
  2. The unit began on April 4th and ended with the unit assessment on May 7th.  The calendar span of the unit of eight lessons was over one month!
  3. Spring Break, a week away from the curriculum, was preceded by a non-student (in-service) day for a total of 6 weekdays the students were away from school.  The last lesson taught before Spring Break was the 4th of 9 lessons -- the very middle of the unit.
  4. The Measurement of Student Learning (MSP), the state of Washington's exam for grades 3-8, was administered for two days on May 2nd and 3rd where no instruction was given regarding Unit 10.  Preparation for the math portion of the MSP was combined with the Unit 10 lessons a week prior to testing.
  5. The unit test was given two school days after the MSP.
The analysis?
  1. The two major disruptions to our regular schedule -- Spring Break and the preparation for the MSP -- seemed to have the greatest impact on the Unit 10 instruction NOT the flipped format. Spring Break fell in the midst of the unit.  
  2. After Spring Break, I "knit-in" a review for the MSP into the instruction. Pairing a review of concepts encountered since the beginning of the year along with new and unrelated geometric concepts was not the best idea.
  3. Whether a flipped classroom or a traditional classroom, the failure was not in the model of teaching, but rather in my ineffective planning around the Spring Break and MSP testing.  
The synthesis? Embarrassingly the following seems like just plain common sense, beginning teacher stuff, "well duh!" solutions--oh well:
  1. I need to plan a review that is wholly for the MSP which teaches nothing new conceptually.
  2. I need to plan to end and assess a unit or a "mini-unit" just prior to Spring Break.  (A mini-unit might be half of a unit.)  The key point being that I would not carry any instruction over Spring Break that would be tested after the break.
I can now breathe a sigh of relief. I can see the flip was NOT the reason the test results flopped. I now see that come Spring next year I will simply need to be more efficient in planning effective instruction around the same parameters encountered this year.

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