SY 2008-09 is finally put to bed, and there's an awful lot to think about. I'm going to go into some of these points more fully in later posts, because I'm trying to get down everything there is before I forget about it.
FINAL EXAMS: The importance of comprehensive final exams became more clear to me than ever before; also, the limits of paper-pencil tests over the course of 3 days. If we're really going to test students' learning of Spanish, more and more I'm thinking that portfolios are the way to go. Note to self: find model portfolio evaluation systems. (Students present portfolios en español as final exam? That's in presentation mode of communication.)
STANDARDS-BASED GRADING SYSTEMS: My school is running on two fundamentally different grading systems, and I suspect that many others are, as well. The bulk of grades is based on the number of standards that students master (at some point, the definition of "mastery" becomes EXTREMELY important). Yet every trimester, we have to give students a letter grade for their cumulative GPA. We come up with arbitrary, counter-intuitive formulae to bridge the gap. To confuse the issue, the final exam isn't directly weighed into our "standards assessment / employability skills" formula, but it's worth 10 % of the final grade.
SYLLABI: For the next school year, we're going to have syllabi detailing what we'll be teaching, what standards the students will be held accountable for, and (presumably) how we're going to know, i.e., what assessments we'll be using. This is entirely a good thing, and by now for most of us it should simply be a matter of taking the information off of our curriculum document and putting it on to a piece of paper that students can read. We ARE all keeping our curriculum document up to date, right? Right? (trails off sheepishly)
SW-PBS: I found out yesterday that my school did not receive the Mi-BLSi grant we applied for. This means, among other things, that the system we grew last year will have to serve us for at least one more year. The good news is that the ISD's capacity for supporting the PBS program has increased substantially--our advisor has new resources to bring to bear, as well as new workers in the ISD itself. One of the main sticking points appears to be ongoing teacher training time, and that looks to be a BIIIIIIG deal.
STUDENTS LEARNING SPANISH: I'm still pondering what the results of the final exam mean. Most of my students did much better than they expected to (and as well as I expected them to), but fell down in some surprising ways--writing section, I'm looking at you here. So something's got to give there. In addition, I'm not sure that they learned to converse in Spanish as well as I'd hoped. So there's something to work on, too.
K-8 PROGRAM: Weaknesses in this program and its director are showing through the whole plan. Next year, there will be a year-long 8th grade Spanish program, so we're going to have to step it up a noch. I expect there will be a year-long 7th grade program the year after that, so I'm going to have to get a lot better really fast.
No doubt, more to come.