STEM Program Update – Draft 1

While on my Christmas Break, I have updated the proposal for the STEM program at Ferris High School.

CTE STEM Proposal Update – Draft 1

The proposal update makes several changes from the original proposal submitted at the conclusion of the 2015/2016 academic year.

The proposal, at it currently exists, calls for the following:

  • REMOVE Principles of Technology – TRANSFER to Science Department
  • RENAME Computer Programming I to AP Computer Science I
  • RENAME Computer Programming II to AP Computer Science II
  • RENAME Computer Programming III to Computer Science III
  • ADD Engineering Design & Problem Solving
  • ADD Robotics I Pre-Requisite Course – AP Computer Science I
  • ADD Robotics I Pre-Requisite Course – Engineering Design & Problem Solving

The proposal also makes a strong effort to provide a STEM Endorsement as outlined by HB5.

SCIENCE

HB5 requires that the student must complete 3 required science courses:

  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Physics

In addition, students must complete 2 additional science courses of their choice. We would recommend:

  • Principles of Technology
  • Engineering Design & Problem Solving

MATH

HB5 requires that the student must complete 3 required math courses:

  • Algebra I
  • Geometry
  • Algebra II

In addition, students must complete 2 additional post-Algebra II courses of their choice. We would recommend:

  • AQR or Precalculus
  • AP Computer Science I

TECHNOLOGY/ENGINEERING

HB5 requires that the student must complete 4 courses from a pre-selected list. We would recommend:

  • AP Computer Science I
  • AP Computer Science II
  • Computer Science III
  • Robotics I

The plan also calls for eventually expanding the offerings of additional “overlap” courses such as:

  • Discrete Mathematics for Computer Science (additional math course)
  • Engineering Mathematics (additional math course)

Currently, the proposal is under review by both internal and external sources to verify compliance with HB5.

AP or Dual Credit Computer Science

In addition to Robotics, Computer Science, and Principles of Technology, I teach 4 sections of Business Information Management I (BIM) I. The BIM class is offered as a dual credit course through Navarro College in Corsicana, TX.

While I was completing the credentialing process for Navarro, I noticed that they offer several Computer Science courses that are in-line with our 3 proposed courses. This made me wonder for a moment, is Advanced Placement the best option for our students?

The Case For Dual Credit / Against AP

I have spoken with several different administrators and they are excited about the possibility of offering the Computer Science courses as dual credit as opposed to Advanced Placement.

The reasoning for their excitement is that if the course is offered as dual credit, the student must complete the assigned work and assessments satisfactorily and at the conclusion they receive college credit. Under the Advanced Placement option, the student must do this as well and meet a minimum score of a College Board created/administered exam.

The dual credit solution also allows us to offer Computer Science I, Computer Science II, and Computer Science III as college-level courses. Under the Advanced Placement option, only Computer Science I and Computer Science II would be college-level courses.

In a dual credit scenario, the students will know exactly which college-level courses they are receiving credit for at Navarro College. Under the Advanced Placement option, students have an idea of which courses the Advanced Placement credit will cover but there is no guarantee.

The Case for AP / Against Dual Credit

Having worked for a time in higher education, I have had the chance to see what lies on the other side of the fence. In the world of higher education, faculty are many times admonished if their percentage of “A’s” or passing is too high. This is the concept of grade inflation. Institutions of higher education don’t want to appear that “everyone passes and gets an A!” They have an appearance of academic rigor to uphold.

In the world of K-12 education, we have almost the exact opposite. In K-12, faculty are admonished if their failure percentage is too high. For example, where I am at now, a failure rate above 15% is unacceptable.

As such, let’s look at some grades for 15 fictional students:

  • Student A – 90
  • Student B – 88
  • Student C – 57
  • Student D – 65
  • Student E – 97
  • Student F – 73
  • Student G – 94
  • Student H – 82
  • Student I – 76
  • Student J – 79
  • Student K – 82
  • Student L – 88
  • Student M – 94
  • Student N – 45
  • Student O – 85

In this example, the class average is 79.67% with a failure rate of 20%.

To bring that failure rate down to under the 15% threshold, I would have to find some way to bring the grade of “Student D” up to passing as they are the closest to passing.

If we apply a curve based upon the formula of
grade + (square root (grade) X 0.6)
we get the following:

  • Student A – 90 –> 96
  • Student B – 88 –> 94
  • Student C – 57 –> 62
  • Student D – 65 –> 70
  • Student E – 97 –> 100
  • Student F – 73 –> 78
  • Student G – 94 –> 100
  • Student H – 82 –> 87
  • Student I – 76 –> 81
  • Student J – 79 –> 84
  • Student K – 82 –> 87
  • Student L – 88 –> 94
  • Student M – 94 –> 100
  • Student N – 45 –> 49
  • Student O – 85 –> 91

The class average is now 85% with a failure rate of 13.3%.

So, in the world of K-12 education, this class is now clear of any additional scrutiny of its grades. However, “Student D” who did not demonstrate mastery of the skills has passed.

Let’s assume that “Student D” performs the same way for the entire year – just barely passing due to the curves. This student leaves high school receives college-level credit for the class and believes they are ready for the next-level course, when they are not.

In contrast, an Advanced Placement course could also be held to the same grading guidelines and “Student D” would receive their passing grade in the course. However, to have the possibility to receive college credit, “Student D” would have to score high enough on the College Board exam for that course. Given the performance of “Student D” in the class, they would likely not score high enough to receive college-level credit.

Personal Opinion

I have spoken with administrators at both the K-12 and higher education levels and have come to a final decision.

My initial thoughts are that dual credit Computer Science would be a great solution for my students in the short term as they would be all but guaranteed college-level credit. They would get the “feel good” feeling of receive college credit.

However, in the long-term, I feel that Advanced Placement is the best solution because if counteracts the grade inflation inherent in K-12 education with the College Board exam. Here, the “feel good” feeling of receiving college credit would be genuine as they would have passed an effective 3rd party exam.

As the majority of students taking the class will pursue college after high school, the long-term solution of Advanced Placement seems to be the best option at this time.

How to Make It Better

There are a few different options that could be done to make this better for everyone involved all-around and level the attractiveness of both options for the short-term and long-term:

  1. Remove punitive actions for failure rates in excess of 15% in college-credit classes.
  2. Add oversight to monitor failure rates in college-credit classes and transfer students to non-college-credit classes when justified.
    NOTE: This is already done for many Advanced Placement courses but not Dual Credit.
  3. Genuinely align classroom, campus, and district expectations of college-credit participants (teachers & students) to those of the college that the credit is awarded through.

Fall Semester Grades Almost Done!

Almost to the finish line! Only have 1 1/2 days of school left! The 2nd quarter of the year is done, the semester exams are done, and we’re ready to start closing out the books on the first half of the 2016/2017 school year.

Semester 1 Grade Progress
Semester 1 Grade Progress

All of my classes are closed for the semester with the exception of one (BIM 3B). One of my students was absent today and missed his exam. He will make it up next week and then I’ll be ready to close out this semester.

It’s been an interesting first half of the school year! Have learned that we need a structured curriculum for robotics and alignment of it with the FIRST Tech Challenge robotics competition program.

We also need to reduce the number of students in Principles of Technology to a number that does not exceed the number of computers/seats in the room.

Pre-Exam Grades

It seems we were just talking about grades and here we are at the conclusion of the first semester! Hard to believe that we are now at the midway point of the 2016/2017 school year.

As we come into semester exams week, I have run my current S1 reports which factor Q1 and Q2 but don’t have a semester exam calculated in.

Computer Science I

1st Semester - Computer Science I (Pre-Exam)
1st Semester – Computer Science I (Pre-Exam)

As you can see, the grades in Computer Science for S1 led to a double-hump camel and not a nice bell curve. While we have a nice spike in the 80’s (42.85%), we have another smaller spike in the 50’s (14.28%).

Currently, this class has failure rate of 21.43%. Hopefully, the semester exam will be enough to pull some of those failures up to passes.

Principles of Technology

1st Semester - Principles of Technology (Pre-Exam)
1st Semester – Principles of Technology (Pre-Exam)

As you can see here, the grades don’t give us a nice bell, but there is no double-hump. At present, 44% of the students in the class are holding an “A” for the semester.

Currently, the class has a failure rate of 4%.

Robotics & Automation

1st Semester - Robotics & Automation (Pre-Exam)
1st Semester – Robotics & Automation (Pre-Exam)

As you can see here, the grades give us a nice bell, but it spikes in the 90’s. At present, 72% of the students in the class are holding an “A” for the semester with 38% of those holding a 100%.

Currently, this class has a 0% failure rate!

Business Information Management I

1st Semester - Business Information Management - 2B (Pre-Exam)
1st Semester – Business Information Management – 2B (Pre-Exam)

 

1st Semester - Business Information Management - 3B (Pre-Exam)
1st Semester – Business Information Management – 3B (Pre-Exam)
1st Semester - Business Information Management - 4B (Pre-Exam)
1st Semester – Business Information Management – 4B (Pre-Exam)
1st Semester - Business Information Management - 4A (Pre-Exam)
1st Semester – Business Information Management – 4A (Pre-Exam)
1st Semester - Business Information Management - All Sections (Pre-Exam)
1st Semester – Business Information Management – All Sections (Pre-Exam)

As you can see, all of these classes have a heavy shift to the A’s with 71% of all students enrolled. Just under 22% of students are evenly split between B’s and C’s.

Currently, all BIM classes together have just over a 7% failure rate for the semester.

 

First League Meet is in the Books

FIRST Tech ChallengeWe just wrapped-up our first league meet of the FIRST Tech Challenge 2016/2017 season!

The Citrine League has 8 teams who are committed to participating in the 2016/2017 season coming from Erath (2 teams), Tarrant (2 teams), Dallas (1 team), Ellis (1 team), and Kaufman (2 teams) counties.

At the meet, we had 6 teams show with 1 team having to forfeit just before we got started.

FTC 11242 at League Meet #1
FTC 11242 at League Meet #1

Following 7 rounds of matches in the Velocity Vortex game of the season, FTC 11242 (Ferris High School) came out in 2nd place for the meet.

As this was the first meet of the season, the meet results are the current season rankings as well.

At the end of the day, the rankings broke-out as follows:

  • 1st Place – FTC 9609 (Kaufman High School) 10 QP / 47 RP
  • 2nd Place – FTC 11242 (Ferris High School) 4 QP / 56 RP
  • 3rd Place – FTC 9402 (Henderson Junior High School) 4 QP / 47 RP
  • 4th Place – FTC 9403 (Henderson Junior High School) 4 QP / 42 RP
  • 5th Place – FTC 127 (Ben Barber Career/Tech Academy) 2 QP / 56 RP

Unranked teams include the following:

  • FTC 9408 (Kaufman High School) 0 QP / 0 RP
  • FTC 9582 (DeSoto High School) 0 QP / 0 RP
  • FTC 11085 (Mansfield High School) 0 QP / 0 RP

All-in-all, the team and robot performed exceptionally well. I am very thankful for the volunteers who assisted me with successfully pulling this meet off.

Progress Report 4 Grades

It’s once again that time. It’s time for progress reports. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been asked by my students if they can lose their eligibility or can only re-gain it at this progress check. As a UIL coach, I have to say that’s not filling me with a lot of confidence as we come into the proverbial home-stretch of the semester.

For the record, students can only lose eligibility at a report card (each 9-weeks) and at the state-mandated 6-week grade check that is obviously 6-weeks into the start of the school year.

This progress check, I also began to adjust grades to be in alignment with the campus policies for grade distribution. In the graphs below, the blue represents the original (uncurved) grades for the grading period and the red represents the modified (curved) grades for the grading period.

The first cluster is percentage of A’s, the second cluster is percentage of B’s, the third cluster is percentage of C’s, and the final cluster is percentage of F’s.

Progress Report 4 - Computer Science I
Progress Report 4 – Computer Science I
Progress Report 4 - Principles of Technology
Progress Report 4 – Principles of Technology
Progress Report 4 - Robotics
Progress Report 4 – Robotics
Progress Report 4 - BIM (All Sections)
Progress Report 4 – BIM (All Sections)

While it appears that some classes tremendously benefited from the modifications (e.g. Computer Science I) and other received little benefit (e.g. BIM – All Sections), remember that you are looking at percentages and not actual numbers.

At the time of this writing, my current enrollment numbers are as follows:

  • Computer Science I – 14 Students (1 Section)
  • Principles of Technology – 25 Students (1 Section)
  • Robotics & Automation – 18 Students (1 Section)
  • Business Information Management I – 83 Students (4 Sections)

As you can see, in some of the classes, an adjustment to the grades of 2 students can reflect as a major grade shift in some classes (e.g. 14% in Computer Science I) and a minor grade shift in other classes (e.g. 2% in BIM – All Sections).

Progress Report 3 Grades

It has been 3 weeks since the 1st quarter of the school year wrapped-up. As such, we’re at another grade check – Progress Report 3.

As this is a progress report, students cannot lose eligibility per UIL guideline, they can only regain eligibility if they lost it 3 weeks ago when the 1st quarter ended.

Following is how my 4 courses performed at this grade check.

Computer Science I

For the past 3 weeks, Computer Science I has had 1 quiz grade and 5 daily grades. One of those daily grades was eligible for a grade drop as there was an unusual disruption to the instruction that day.

Progress Report 3 - Computer Science I
Progress Report 3 – Computer Science I

As you can see, the grades are starting to separate considerably from where they were in prior grading cycles. This grading cycle has had a challenging concept covered for much of its duration: Base-2, Base-8, Base-10, and Base-16 numbering systems and conversions between and arithmetic within those systems.

Robotics

For the past 3 weeks, Robotics has had only 4 daily grades.

Progress Report 3 - Robotics
Progress Report 3 – Robotics

As is the case with Computer Science, the grades have started to separate considerably from where they were in prior grading cycles. Nothing during this grading cycle has been very difficult, but some students have elected to not participate and their grades reflect this decision.

Principles of Technology

For the past 3 weeks, Principles of Technology has had 3 daily grades, 1 quiz grade (Egg Drop Project) and 1 test grade (Unit 2).

Progress Report 3 - Principles of Technology
Progress Report 3 – Principles of Technology

Unlike the preceding two classes, this class is relatively tightly packed in the 70+ range with a peak in the 90+ range. Given the materials covered, I am relatively pleased with these grades.

Business Information Management I

For the past 3 weeks, all 4 of my BIM classes have had 4 daily grades and 1 test grade (Tables in MS Word).

Progress Report 3 - BIM 2B
Progress Report 3 – BIM 2B
Progress Report 3 - BIM 3B
Progress Report 3 – BIM 3B
Progress Report 3 - BIM 4B
Progress Report 3 – BIM 4B
Progress Report 3 - BIM 4A
Progress Report 3 – BIM 4A

As you can see, several of the BIM classes have multiples A’s as well as multiple failures with the exception of BIM 3B. Many students have elected to not submit class assignments or their tests or both. As such, this has had a major impact on their grades. All students who have submitted work are passing.

1st Quarter Grades

The first 25% of the 2016/2017 Academic Year is now in the books! Hard to believe – but, it’s true. This past Friday, 14-October-2016 marked the end of the first 9-week grading quarter of the year.

Here’s a recap of how the grades broke out for my various classes:

Computer Science I (1B)

Q1 2016 Grade Summary - Computer Science
Q1 2016 Grade Summary – Computer Science

This quarter ended with an introduction into iterations, which is one of the more challenging concepts for students to comprehend. As such, the grades fluctuated a little bit at the end of the grading cycle.

The only 2 failures were due to poor performance on the unit tests and not taking advantage of the opportunity to submit corrections to bring the grades higher.

Principles of Technology (2A)

Q1 2016 Grade Summary - Principles of Technology
Q1 2016 Grade Summary – Principles of Technology

The quarter ended with an introduction to Conservation of Energy and Momentum. The only two failures in the class were not a direct result of poor performance on a test, but due to lack of participating on projects.

The only 2 failing students elected to not participate on various major projects during the first quarter (e.g. air skimmer, water bottle rocket, etc…).

Robotics & Automation (3A)

Q1 2016 Grade Summary - Robotics and Automation
Q1 2016 Grade Summary – Robotics and Automation

Unlike the previous two classes, all students in this class passed all objectives for the quarter. Any low-grades were once again due to students not submitting work and not due to lack of understanding.

Business Information Management I (2B)

Q1 2016 Grade Summary - Business Information Management (2B)
Q1 2016 Grade Summary – Business Information Management (2B)

While the graph shows 1 student failing this class during this period, that grade was adjusted up to passing as it was within the 69.0 to 69.9 range. I personally do not let students sit on a “9”. I always override and round up the 69, 79, and 89.

As such, like the 3A Robotics and Automation class, this class had no failures!

Business Information Management I (3B)

Q1 2016 Grade Summary - Business Information Management (3B)
Q1 2016 Grade Summary – Business Information Management (3B)

Like the BIM class before it, this class had no failures! However, this class genuinely had zero failures and also held the highest average of all of my BIM classes! Way to go BIM 3B!

Business Information Management I (4A)

Q1 2016 Grade Summary - Business Information Management (4A)
Q1 2016 Grade Summary – Business Information Management (4A)

Like the BIM class before it, this class also genuinely had zero failures and came in a close second for the highest average of my BIM classes! Good work BIM 4A!

Business Information Management I (4B)

Q1 2016 Grade Summary - Business Information Management (4B)
Q1 2016 Grade Summary – Business Information Management (4B)

Like the BIM class before it, this class also genuinely had zero failures. However, this class had the highest number of low-C’s of any of the BIM classes. I am going to need to watch this class closely as there were far too many students who were too close to falling below the cut-off for my comfort.

What Will Be Changing

As we enter the 2nd Quarter of the year a few things will be changing in all of my classes.

  1. Seating chart will be established for Computer Science I to cut down on incidents of students disrupting class and interfering with learning.
  2. Seating chart will be established for Principles of Technology to address incidents of student disruptions.
  3. Seating chart will be established for Business Information Management (4B) to address student interactions that are preventing work from being completed in a timely manner.
  4. Students who fail to complete an assignment will be immediately assigned to come in for lunch/advisory on that day if in 1st or 2nd periods and on the next day if in 3rd or 4th periods.
  5. Students will not be allowed to take “breaks” on the computers when working. They will be allowed to listen to music, but video games will be blocked until complete and proper work is submitted.
  6. Campus late policy will be implemented as written. Work will no longer be taken after 5 days from assigned date except in rare and extreme cases.

Why Wait ‘Til the End?!?!?!?

As we rapidly approach the conclusion of the last day of our 9-weeks grading cycle, I have a plethora of students who are asking what they can do in order to bring their grades up.

While this in and of itself is not unusual (this is my 14th year working in education), what frustrates me is the number of them who are in what is arguably the easiest of my 4 classes (Business Information Management).

Everything in this class is handed to the students in step-by-step instructions with screen shots. All students must do is follow the instructions, whether they are reading on their own or following along with me, and then submit their work when done.

While I do not feel that I will ultimately have very many failures in this class, it frustrates me that many choose to wait until the end of the grading cycle to perform. Why just not perform the entire time and the stress level will be much lower?

Proposal for 2017/2018 Robotics Program Expansion in Draft

Well, my proposal for the expanded robotics program has started to take shape and I’ve started discussing it with my district leadership as outlined as one of my T-TESS professional goals.

The initial discussion has been very positive and looks like it has a high degree of being adopted by the district for the 2017/2018 school year.

The possible schedules and classes are as follows:

Proposed Schedule 1

08:00 – 08:53 FJH – Robotics 6 (FLL) or STEM Lab
08:58 – 10:01 FJH – Robotics 7/8 (FTC)
10:06 – 10:59 FJH – Conference/Planning
11:10 – 12:20 FHS – Lunch & Advisory
12:25 – 13:55 FHS – AP Computer Science I [A-Day]
14:00 – 15:30 FHS – Robotics I (FTC) [A-Day]
12:25 – 13:55 FHS – AP Computer Science II [B-Day]
14:00 – 15:30 FHS – Robotics II (FRC) [B-Day]

Proposed Schedule 2

08:00 – 09:30 FHS – AP Computer Science I [A-Day]
09:35 – 11:10 FHS – Robotics I (FTC) [A-Day]
08:00 – 09:30 FHS – AP Computer Science II [B-Day]
09:35 – 11:10 FHS – Robotics II (FRC) [B-Day]
11:10 – 12:20 FHS – Lunch & Advisory
12:41 – 13:34 FJH – Conference/Planning
13:39 – 14:32 FJH – Robotics 7/8 (FTC)
14:37 – 15:30 FJH – Robotics 6 (FLL) or STEM Lab

Next Step

My next step is to go see our STEM Lab at FJH in action with students engaged in it. I’ll also be going over to evaluate components and equipment they are currently using and how a robotics team could be implemented in conjunction with it, namely with the 6th graders. For the 7th/8th graders, the plan is to simply offer a second STEM elective as a robotics course that aligns with FTC.

Funding Sources

I am also in the process of working with Samantha Bradbury – STEM Co-Coordinator for Education Service Center – Region 10 to communicate with program teachers and coordinators across the region to identify where junior high-level robotics programs can and are being funded from.