26 May 2017

AAPPL Results Analysis

I have been using AAPPL rubrics for a few years, but I had never administered the test. Ordinarily I'm a very anti-test type person, but in the face of waning school budgets and waxing xenophobia, I wanted something tangible to point to in order to demonstrate the merits of learning a language, something that would put a feather in our cap that only languages can provide.

That feather is the seal of biliteracy, or here in North Carolina, the "Global Languages Endorsement." Now a four-course sequence is pretty much impossible here at the early college, but I felt pretty confident a handful of my kiddos could "Pass an external exam approved by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction"--meaning I1 or better on all 4 tests.

In fact, nearly all of the students who took all 4 tests got at least one intermediate ranking: 2/3 got two or more, and eleven (including six native speakers) actually earned the seal!

Here's what my first ever AAAPL reports look like:

Background

Three  things you should know about my classes before we break down their AAPPL results:
  1. The As and I5 are my native speakers. The I2s and I3s, however, are not.
  2. I made everybody--EVERYBODY--do the interpersonal listening/speaking, coughing up some of my hard-earned teacher dollars in some cases so that I could get a baseline in the one category that was a little interpretive, a little productive.
  3. Students had to pay for their own AAPPL tests. Most were interested enough in taking a stab at the seal of biliteracy ("Global Languages Endorsement") that they ponied up. If they weren't, I made my own pretend AAPPL test for reading, listening, and writing for them.
That being said, the unenthused do not account for all of the wild variation in speaking. All of the N1s are among their ranks and most of the N2s; I kind of suspect that enthusiasm was a larger factor than ability in many of those. There were some N4s and even I1s among them, though.

Seeking to understand the variation, I disaggregated the data a bit, cutting out Spanish III and then separating by class. See, I noticed that while 2/3 of first period was intermediate in speaking, only 1/5 of fourth period did.  Now 1/2 of 4th took no other test, so that might make their results artificially high in the other categories. Also, I'm certain 2 got ripped off because of recording issues in 4th, although 2 got "UR" for their recordings in 1st as well.

The only explanation I can think of is how the classes were assembled:
  1. First period was made up of 23 Spanish II students. Fourth period only had 15 because Spanish III--7 native speakers who skipped I plus one really dedicated senior--was mooshed in with them.
  2. All of the Spanish II kiddos who indicated they wanted to be actors in the language festival (that got moved on us without warning and which I am not at ALL still bitter about a month later) were in first period--though they only made up half of it.
  3. All of the kids in 4th period Spanish II had opted for singing--which is a group event where those who did not feel as confident could potentially hide out in the background.

Results

Reading

I confess I kind of expected these would be higher, but I can see where going from "just pick out what you understand" and getting scored only on that versus the AAPPL matching format could set some back.

Listening

These results are pretty in-line with what I'd expect, again, with the new, less loosey-goosey format to the interpreting. I had hoped for more intermediate, but this was always a problem area, and I have no doubt that nerves factored in here.

Speaking

 What the...? I am fairly certain that recording issues factored in here. One of my very very brightest students logged an N3, and another at N2. They have not performed at that level since  the first half of Spanish I. Two other bright ones got "UR" for their official score--I could hear a lot of breathing and cutting out. This kind of makes me want to make writing my default for the future.


Writing

Holy camole! How is it they were just barely intermediate in reading, but knocking the top off in writing? For one, looking at the answers they submitted, I have to say the scorers took the part about "in a way that your teacher and others who are used to the writing of language learners can understand" VERY seriously.

Conclusions

Looking at last year's results, you can see that the bulk of the class was still at Novice High, with a few stragglers in Novice Mid--exactly where North Carolina expects them to be at the end of Spanish I.
As you can see this year, over half the class is intermediate in just about everything! Listening is a bit of a problem, possibly because of those  personalized IPAs last year. Taking out the "unenthused" from the speaking data, the chart looks a lot closer to the others, too:


I'm still concerned about those who were not confident or eager enough to take all 4 sections, and the preponderance of those still stuck near Novice Low in speaking, even though I'm blown away by how many are solid Novice Mids! I would like to point out, though, that last year about 1/2 got I1 or better for reading, but now it's 2/3--IF we don't count the native speakers!! 

Considering not only the shift from personalized IPAs to AAPPL format, but ALSO the full calendar year without Spanish class, I have to say I'm pretty pleased that growth was mostly consistent!

Now if I can just get some funding next year...

23 May 2017

Worth It


I don't think I'd ever heard the words "...will major in K-12 Spanish education" on graduation night before this week. Over 10 years teaching Spanish--nine as the only language teacher in the school--and no one before had left knowing they wanted to follow in my footsteps.

Now this kid is brilliant, and has a flair for languages that we in the field get to see only a few times in our careers. An ordinarily very reserved and shy guy, when he got in front of the room to rap in Spanish for the first time, you could have picked 20 jaws off the ground when he finished that one Anita Tijoux chorus. The point being, the guys is gifted, so it's not necessarily a case of "the highest form of flattery" so much as following those gifts.

Except he is gifted in so many things! The other teachers were certain he was going to be a scientist--wouldn't have surprised me either, to tell the truth (he was the one who chose physics for his Genius Hour project back in Spanish I). But when he first scheduled time to talk with me before school about teaching, I knew this had to happen.

At the time he wasn't sure if he wanted to teach science or Spanish or maybe even German, which he had started teaching himself. Despite his talents--which were glaringly obvious to all of his teachers and classmates--he struggled with self esteem issues, even at the top of his game. So knowing not only that he was, well, a dude considering education, but also the kind of quiet, sensitive dude that might not always see someone like himself represented among caring authority figures, I could think of no future more beautiful than one with this dude teaching.

We talked a few more times as he started exploring his options for college. I shared my "wisdom" about dual certification, the future employment prospects for language teachers. I gave my Appalachian homies a heads up that he might be headed their way, and that they must must must take care of him if he goes that direction. He did make it a point to stop by my classroom when he got into App, and so I made him promise to have cookies with me and my family on one of our regular trips up to Boone for creeks, Pokemon, and the Insomnia Cookies shop.

I positioned myself off to the side of the stage on graduation night, snapping what photos I could of all of these babies who made me so proud just making it through. But I wasn't prepared when it was his turn to cross, not prepared to hear those magical words.

Because it would have been magical having any student who sat through my classes decide that what I did was something worth doing for them too. Several students have at least "been thinking about minoring in Spanish," but never before had they planned to teach it. Having inspired any student that way would have made a mama bear proud. But that it was this student?

I started bawling instantly.

What this student's major declaration meant to me was that teaching Spanish means hope to him. It tells me that this cerebral young person who wanted to help others with all his heart had decided that teaching Spanish, doing what I had done with him, was the best way to do that. That the same degree I got from the same school I got it was the best way to keep hope alive. I mean, I can't vouch for his exact thought processes, but knowing what I know about his journey and about his motivations and his talents, I know that this young person--whom so many, including myself, admire immensely--thought long and hard and decided that he could do the most good becoming my colleague, doing what I do.

I have to tell you, my heart has been battered with doubt about what I do this year. Maybe it started with SCOLT, maybe with the frustrations of online teaching, maybe with the suicide of a former student last May followed by the tragic accident that took his classmate in December.

But if one kid--THIS kid--believes strongly enough in what I do to keep it going another generation, that it is the best use of his ample talents and the best way to give to others, to help the world, well then.

Maybe this is worth doing.