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What Did My Students Think Of This Year? (2017-18 Edition)

As I prepare to start a new year of school (#yearroundschools), it’s time again to look back on the year that has just ended. Every year I follow in the footsteps of one of my edu-idols, Larry Ferlazzo, surveying my students about the things that worked and didn’t. I promise them that the results will be anonymous and public, posting about the responses in this space to ensure that I can’t hide from them.

The questions haven’t changed much over the past three years because they give me TONS of useful feedback. You can find the raw results here (filtered for student privacy and inappropriate language), and the posts from previous years here and here. Here are the four biggest takeways from this year:

1. Fewer of my students report that they enjoyed my class most of the time. Dropping from 87% in 2016-2017 to 80% in 2017-2018, this metric tells me that efforts to engage and motivate my students can use some more work.

2. This group of students valued their friendships more than grades in a bigger way than previous classes. Compared to 2017 (80%), much fewer of my 2018 surveyed students stated that they would choose to earn an A without their friends in their class rather than earn a C with their friends.

3. This year’s students gave me a better grade than last year’s students did. More than 80% of this year’s students gave me a grade of an A for the year, which is significantly higher than last year.

4. Even more of my students than usual prefer a single vague grade. When asked whether they would like to get more detailed information about their performance in class, more of my students than any previous year (36.8%) chose instead to stick with a single mark that includes behavior, work habits, and mastery. This disappoints me, but it really points toward an systematic issue with the education system as it currently stands.

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The saddest statistic

New data shows that suicide attempts by middle school aged children is on the rise:

“There’s a perception that children don’t kill themselves, but that’s just not true. A new report shows that, for the first time, suicide rates for U.S. middle school students have surpassed the rate of death by car crashes.”

As a society, this problem should be a priority for our time, effort, and funding.

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Diagnosing Gerrymandering

The_Gerry-Mander_EditThis one is a bit off-topic for this space, but it is an issue that I care about deeply.  A recent piece by my local NPR station (WUNC) drew my attention.

Researchers in the Math Department at Duke University used a computer simulation to draw congressional districts in North Carolina and compare the outcomes to what actually happened in 2012 with the districts that were gerrymandered carefully drawn by the General Assembly following the 2010 Census.

The results are not really surprising.  The majority of state voters selected Democratic candidates for seats in the legislature, but the outcomes actually favored Republicans with more than twice as many of them winning their elections.  The research showed that this does not match the “desires of the voters”.

It certainly seems like this tool can be useful for diagnosing the effects of gerrymandering.  Maybe someday we’ll have a bipartisan commission to decide district boundaries.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia
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Less is more

Those of you who have read Scripted Spontaneity for more than a few months probably know already that I struggle to keep up a regular posting schedule.  It’s not that I don’t like writing, or that I don’t have things to write about, but rather that I tend to put other responsibilities above the call to blog.

Then, my good friend and edublogger extraordinaire, Bill Ferriter, posted the third in a series of really helpful pieces on building a strong education blog.  His most recent piece really hit home for me, and has pushed my thinking toward setting up a schedule for regular posting here at SS.

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