From classes to the real world | Kris Hill

In late April I got an interesting request from Dave Wright, the Advanced Placement statistics teacher at Tahoma High, via Facebook.

Facebook is an interesting social network for me.

I’m also on Twitter and LinkedIn, but, I’m most active on Facebook. I have about 300 friends on Facebook which is a mix of people I know through work, through school and online forums.

On a fairly regularly basis I get story ideas on Facebook.

In late April I got an interesting request from Dave Wright, the Advanced Placement statistics teacher at Tahoma High, via the site.

After his students take the AP test in early May, Wright gives them a project to work on until the end of the school year for which they conduct a statistical analysis. The kids sample a population and predict what that entire population thinks based on the sample results.

Wright said he asks community members to come up with project ideas. He often approaches those in the business sector. He asked me if there was anything we wanted to know about a certain population so we batted a couple of ideas back and forth.

Then I filled out a form with my request and contact information. About two weeks ago I got an email from one of Wright’s students who asked to schedule a time for her group to meet with me about my request.

I met with them Monday and explained what I was looking for: an evaluation of voting patterns since 2004. I want to see if there has been a shift in patterns in Covington or Maple Valley or if they’ve remained consistent since I wrote a story about voting demographics in 2006. I’m also curious if there’s been demographic shifts — socio-economic or racial or both — that might be correlated to any voting shifts.

It was really cool to spend 30 minutes with these students as they explained the purpose of the project and asked me questions to clarify the scope of the investigation I’m asking them to conduct. I was quite impressed with their thought process as well as the fact they were taking the project seriously. There’s a month until they graduate, they took the AP test, Wright could easily let them coast through the end of the year with some simple assignment. And they could fall prey to the senioritis that plagues so many 12th graders so close to that diploma.

Instead, this a final project and a significant portion of their grade. The idea is to take all the things they’ve learned over the course of the year and to put them together into this project. It’s an awesome idea. I also like that the kids not only are analyzing data but they’re working with community members on the project and also will develop questions to ask real people so they can collect their own data.

This is what educators refer to as authentic assessment. It builds that bridge between the classroom and the real world. It helps teenagers see that what they’re learning has relevance outside of school.

Wright told me he didn’t reach out to me for an article, but, I was so happy to help and enjoyed the first meeting with the kids so much I wanted to tell my readers about it. I look forward to the second meeting when the students bring back their results.

This is one of the many reasons why Tahoma has a reputation for being a good school district. It’s no wonder people — even my husband and I — moved to Maple Valley because they are so impressed with the school district.

This connection to this group of students happened because I am Facebook friends with teachers and coaches I know. There are some journalists who are hesitant to connect with sources through social media, particularly Facebook, but I am often pleasantly surprised.

I’ll report back after the students present their results. I’m looking forward to it.