Saturday, May 24, 2014

Beyond the Test

As Georgia's standardized test scores have been released, the recurring question that flows through the air is, "How did your school do?"  I think there are two ways to respond to that question. 

The first way is from the perspective of stakeholders, administrators, policy makers and many teachers. They look solely at the snapshot of the test scores to say this school is a high performing school or this system is a high performing system. 
For those tests, on those days they make a superficial determination about the work of the teacher, the knowledge of the students and the effectiveness of the school's instructional practices. 

So this means, a school with disengaging practices, procedural mathematics teaching and learning, and textbooks with superficial understanding for the teachers and students can be praised for the work they've done based on their test scores. Conversely, a school with highly engaging problem based tasks, conceptual mathematics teaching and learning, and standards-based practices may be frowned upon for low test scores. 

This brings me to the second perspective. This perspective sees the whole picture which includes student growth and "out of our control" factors. For example, a 3rd grader can enter the year reading on a kindergarten level and with intensive work end the year on a 2nd grade reading level. That same student struggles with counting one to one coming in but by the end of the year they can use simple part whole strategies to solve addition/subtraction and multiplication/division problems. This student made tremendous gains throughout the year, but will not meet grade level expectations on the state test. That teacher's and student's hard work is now overshadowed by a "does not meet" on the state test. 

The second perspective also tells the tale of two worlds. On one end you have the population that has high parental involvement, funding for tutoring and a healthy overall home life. On the other side there's very little parental involvement, which leads to no additional tutoring outside of what the school offers, a high population of homeless and/or foster children, not to mention a spike in child abuse cases. The students on both side can receive the exact same highly effective instruction in school, but due to the factors outside of our control, the students begin in two different starting places. 

This is why I believe it's so important to look closely at the student growth versus the snapshot test score. I found myself making comparisons based on that snapshot score and I'm sure others of you have as well. It wasn't until @Math_HCS pointed out the perspectives mentioned above. It helped me widen my view again to see the student growth pieces that were being overshadowed. So I encourage you to do the same. Widen your view, analyze your student growth data and create your own celebrations and goals based on those. Don't write a biography on a student based on one moment of his/her life. 

1 comment: