Renewed Conviction

Monday and Tuesday of this past week I spent a total of 14 hours working with a group of 7 other science teachers and 3 special educators completing an alignment study of the Vermont Alternate Assessment Portfolio (VTAAP) and the Vermont Grade Expectations (GEs), often referred to as “The Standards”.

Much of this worked entailed determining if entry points for the VTAAP closely aligned, had far alignment or did not align to the GEs, scored 2,1,o respectively. Towards the end I felt like some sort of supercomputer using “trinary” code to complete the task, with worksheets, packets, and piles spread around me covered in twos,  ones and zeros.

At first, this might not sound beneficial and to some teachers the might be their hell: 14 hours reading the GEs comparing it to entry points, but I honestly can say that though I don’t think I’ll write any ones, twos or zeros for a while (sorry march eleventh you may not show up on the board tomorrow) I really took a lot from the conference.

First of all, I don’t think I spent so much time closely reading and analyzing the Grade Expectations as I did this week, even during my time  at Saint Michael’s College as a teacher in training, though I do believe they did change names twice in my 4 years at Saint Mike’s.

I was really able to look closely at not just 9-12 Life Science GEs, but also the Physical Science and Earth and Space GEs. Not to mention looking at them across grade levels. It really opened my eyes to the possibilities of progression and building on concepts through out the grade levels, and has motivated me to really use the GEs instead of knowing that what I am teaching fits most likely fits into one of them.

Now don’t get me wrong, this is not a new concept, and the idea of designing instruction based on the GEs has been shoved down my throat, as most people who have gone through any educational training would agree with me, and up until this point I’ve been hesitant, resistant. Science is science, thats what I’m teaching, of course I’m teaching the GEs.

However, sometimes it takes moving at your own pace to have the “Ah Ha!” moment someone has been trying to force on you for 7 years. Sometimes it takes just picking it up of the table and taking a nibble on your own to discover what its all about, maybe you’ll like it.

So, this has become one of my goals. Increasing my effective use of the GEs as a guide during the development of my instruction. I’ll keep you posted.

Another really moving aspect of the study was that I got to work with a group of 10 people, quite closely with 4 of them, all of whom are passionate about science. Beyond this, they are passionate about science and believe that all students deserve and have the right to access science. It was a breath of fresh air that strengthened this same internal conviction that I hold.

To go from hearing questions asked  like “Do you think they really need to know that?”, “What are they going to ever use that for?”, or “Will he ever really need science?” to having discussion regarding “How can we help teachers make science more accessible?” is a recharging and empowering environment. It helped me to realize that there are others out there working hard to make sure that all students can have access to science, and for that I thank my alignment colleagues, the facilitators and all those who continue to work towards this goal. I have been rejuvenated and have renewed motivation to continue and strengthen my efforts.