Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Cumulative Final Exam

Please excuse the use of quotations, and please treat all quotations as if I'm using my hands to give the quotations signal.

Scenario A: Teacher speeds through all course material and is "done teaching" for the year by May.  They spend the remaining 1.5 months "reviewing" for the final.

Scenario B: Teacher spends time on each concept, working at the student pace to ensure everybody has a good understanding of each concept, differentiating when appropriate.  By the time June rolls around, there are 2 whole chapters (when did learning take place in chapters) that were not "covered". 

Since they both teach the same course, each teacher's students will be taking the same final exam.  After all, what better way to achieve a standardized curriculum than to make the final exam the same for everybody.  What will these final exam scores look like?

The teacher from Scenario A looks like a superstar.  An expert teacher whose students excel on the final exam.  A true veteran.  The teacher from Scenario B looks like a bumbling fool, a novice who can't even "cover their entire curriculum".  This is the teacher that others look at and say "They move too slow." (not sarcasm quotes)

The students from Scenario A look like the best and brightest, and are rewarded by high scores on a final exam that counts for 20% of their final grade.  Yes, 20%!!!  90 minutes of a school year equates to 20% of a student's grade.  The students of Scenario B are punished for having a teacher who cares about everybody learning, and a teacher that is following a district model of formative assessment and differentiated instruction.  They will not have high scores on their final exam, the same final exam that Scenario A's students beasted.

How does it make sense to give the same final exam, knowing that every teacher employs a different teaching style?  Why can't we have some freedom to develop our own final evaluation of what a student knows?  Something that is not necessarily a multiple choice exam.  Here's what I'd do: My End of Year Projects

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Card Game: AP Stat Ideas

Below are 4 hands from the game "13" that my students now play all the time now that projects are getting finished and school is ending.  Apparently 2's are the best.  I don't know the rules, and I'm not certain they do either.  I believe you can play straights, multiple pairs of multiple numbers, I don't even know.  Do people besides students at my school play this game(i.e. do you know what a "cutup" is)?  An interesting way to analyze probability anyhow.  Here are 4 real hands dealt during a resource period.  Ideas...who will win?  who has the "best" hand

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

End of Year Project Topics

This is an incredibly interesting list of project ideas that my students have generated.  I thought I'd share what they're capable of when they have zero restrictions...

10-11 End of Year Project Ideas 

Some highlights if you don't feel like reading through the whole thing...
  1. Mythbusters: Mac vs PC
  2. Value of a Power Hitter or Contact Hitter in Fantasy Baseball
  3. Developing software that is usable exclusively in an AP Stat class
  4. Using a test vs. a qualitative measure to assess learning
  5. Profiles of countries in a state of unrest to predict revolt (the wiki for this project)
  6. Price differences between Ebay and craigslist
  7. The chance of finding a 15 to 64 year old male in Luxembourg that is a noble compared to a similar-aged male in Denmark being a noble.  (easily the most unique project ever done)
  8. Using Wikipedia, how long it takes for random words using the formula of always clicking the first blue, unbolded and unitalicized word, lead to the end word of Philosophy. On the theory that every word in Wikipedia will eventually lead to Philosphy. Words will be chosen via randomized dictionary words. (based on the fact that clicking the first blue, unbolded, unitalicized word of every page eventually leads to Philosophy)
With a little bit of freedom (okay, a lot of freedom) they come up with some awesome topics and they really enjoy their work in class during these couple of weeks.

How will I grade them?  By writing a list of what the student did well and what the student did not do well.