Standardize This

Bubble Test?

Education reform continues to make headlines as US student achievement is compared to the achievement of other countries.  An overall increasing focus on standardized assessments has been at the forefront of many of these reform discussions.  Teachers and school districts often get caught in the middle of these types of discussions   From what I’ve observed, what seems to agitate some educators is the notion that one high-stakes standardized assessment can validate/invalidate the success of a school year.  Even though educators have been critical of this notion, federal, state, and local school boards continue to look at standardized assessments as the go-to for quality control/accountability purposes.  I truly feel as though these boards have good intentions, but I would like to encourage them to look at alternative ways to measure school achievement.

I don’t know a teacher that doesn’t believe in accountability.  Teachers inherently feel a sense of accountability for their students.  The way that accountability is being measured and the consequences that occur if growth isn’t met is what’s causing concern.  Critics emphasis that only focusing on standardized test scores encourage teaching to the test, massive amounts of test prep and unfortunately cheating.  I’m not downgrading the value of standardized assessments as I believe a limited amount are beneficial in providing valuable feedback that can inform instructional decisions.  Appropriately utilizing student assessment results may prove beneficial for a teacher or school, but using that data outside of its context to manipulate accusations can cause problems.

Proactive Steps …

By now most educators have realized that student achievement data is starting to make up an increasing portion (20% + ) of one’s evaluation.  In some cases one VAM assessment could be used to measure student growth and impact employment decisions.  Instead of using one standardized assessment to determining teacher effectiveness, administrators should enable teachers to show student learning through a variety of means. This is a difficult task to tackle as administrators are also being assessed on standardized assessment results.  While one assessment shows a singular brush stroke of learning, the picture becomes much clearer when multiple data points are used.  Even NWEA, the makers of the MAP assessment encourage school leaders to use multiple data points (not just MAP) to measure student growth.  Regardless, some districts are already using singular assessments for evaluation/employment purposes.  I’m advocating that principal’s take a closer look at multiple student achievement data points instead of relying on one growth indicator.

How …

Formative assessments, student projects, presentations, and pbl activities can show learning at varying levels.  This collection of student data can not only help inform instructional decisions, but show evidence of student learning.  Digital portfolios are making a splash in education and I’m hoping that more districts start using them in conjunction with standardized assessments to provide evidence of student learning.  Showcasing student learning through a variety of formative assessment tools gives more meaning to the learning that’s happening. If communicated appropriately, state and local schoolboards will take notice and become more interested in multiple data points to determine effectivenessss, rather than a singular one.

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How Do You Measure School Achievement?

School Achievement


Student achievement is often at the forefront of the minds of school leaders. Achievement, in the form of student data, inundates schools, teachers, and school improvement plans.   Moreover, school improvement plans seem to hiccup when state assessment results are released.  This data is generally looked at in the form of numerical values related to student achievement on state standardized assessments.  If utilized correctly, analyzing student data may be beneficial for a school/district.  Reviewing strengths and concerns may help allocate resources to areas of need.  Regardless of the benefits, some school leaders and teachers often focus on the need to raise test scores in order to receive a positive rating from the state or district.  That pressure can lead to anxiety and fear as student data is now being tied to teacher/principal evaluations.

I believe school achievement can be viewed through a variety of lenses.  Even though the nation doesn’t necessarily measure the traits below,  I feel that they are still valued.

Character

How well does your school emphasize character?  Some schools use programs, such as Character Counts, while others have deployed their own character curriculum. Discussing anti-bullying strategies and positive ways to cope with problems can be contained within this category.  Emphasizing positive character traits can contribute to becoming more responsible in and outside of the classroom.

Reflective Thinking

Are students allowed time to reflect on their own learning?  Students that are given opportunities to review their achievement/behavior/study skills may set appropriate goals to better themselves.  This skill will be used throughout their life. Is goal-setting important in your school?  Can students analyze their own achievement and create appropriate goals?  Setting and achieving goals often brings confidence and focus.   Goal-setting can be emphasized at any grade level.

Creativity

Does your school allow time for students to be creative?  Does your school offer opportunities for students to be curious?  Are student assignments geared to offer one solution or multiple solutions?  I’ve found that curiosity often leads to creative thinking. Creative thinking is difficult to measure, but the value is immense.

Requesting Feedback

Allowing feedback gives opportunities for stakeholders to offer input regarding changes that may benefit the organization.  How the feedback is utilized may possibly advance a classroom/school/district’s vision.  Using the feedback to better an organization shows value.  Data in the form of feedback can be just as valuable as standardized assessment data.

Collaboration

Does your school encourage collaboration?  Collaboration between staff, or collaboration between students?  I would think it might be both.  Is the classroom environment conducive to collaboration?  Working together also encourages students to practice positive character traits.


I understand that not all of the skills above are measurable   Understanding that school achievement goes beyond standardized assessment results is a step in the right direction.

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