Sunday, December 17, 2017

Do State Tests Support Teamwork or Individual Success?

Our director gave a succinct, methodical presentation of the grade-level MCAS scores. I appreciated her step-by-step approach and noticed how it was a helpful approach for so many educators at the table. Overall I am a fan of standardized state testing, yet I have questions about how the test scores are used.

I continue to be a fan because the data I receive from the scores help me to teach better. I dive into the Edwin analytics with detail to see who performed as expected, who outperformed expectations, and who did not meet expectations. I think carefully about the program taught and the performance gained. I compare the test scores to multiple other formal and informal measures, and use the results to better the teaching/learning program. I believe that the standardized results are an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to teaching well.

With that said though, there is room for improvement with the tests and how they are used. First and foremost, the tests show us that wealthy schools and schools less wealthy generally have different success rates. This is an important factor to consider, and we must use the test scores to look for ways to bridge the opportunity gap between wealthy districts and districts with less wealth. This is vital to the strength of our state and the future happiness and livelihood of all citizens. Children with good educations will be happier, more successful, and better able to contribute to society, while those who don't receive a good education will be less able to contribute and more likely to challenge society in troubling ways. I believe we can offer every child a top-notch education in this state, and that begins with the following measures:
  • Educator choice and voice in every district
  • A tech device for every student in the state
  • Continued attention to worthy standards-based, research-supported educational efforts and programs
  • Sufficient support and adequate facilities
  • High quality summer and after school programs for children at risk everywhere in the state
I also believe that the state has to change its focus on the individual teacher. For example at my grade level we share the teaching of all 75 students. I teach most of the math, yet when I received the MCAS results I was matched with only the students in my class which provides a false report of my impact on students. I think the state should allow districts to choose whether they use a shared model of teaching or one-teacher-one-classroom teaching, and then the data will be demonstrated in that way. For example, if the state did allow that choice, then they would also be able to gather data about the success of one-teacher-one-classroom environments versus shared-teaching models. It's my guess that shared-teaching models at fourth and fifth grade would show better results than one-teacher-one-classroom models since with the shared model educators are able to go deeper with the curriculum they are in charge of and also profit from the collaboration with other grade level educators.

I believe that to strengthen schools we have to look more deeply at school leadership models and structure. I believe that greater collaboration and distributive leadership models will produce stronger schools. I believe that changes to the way the state tests are analyzed will offer some good data to look more deeply at this claim. I hope the state takes this recommendation seriously.