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Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Analyzing Scores: Spring 2018

Students are taking a number of tests this week, tests that will, in part, determine their math level for Middle School. As with all things scores and tests, I have mixed feelings. On one hand, overall, students in our system do extraordinarily well in math by the time they reach 12th grade--their standardized scores are stellar and their performances very good. The courses and supports put in place over time help students to succeed. Yet on the other hand, it's a lot of tests, and tests remain a rather narrow way to look deeply at student learning and forward engagement in any discipline.

I find the data of these tests to be informative. For example, these tests demonstrate to me who knows the standards well and who can easily retain information taught. These tests also demonstrate to me that there are areas of our teaching and learning where we can do better. For example, one issue we have to think about is the needed support for these tests with regard to students' identified needs and supports--do we have the staffing to support those supports for all tests, and if not, how might we change the test taking schedule and numbers to make sure they match the supports available or how can we increase supports to match the tests.

The tests also demonstrate what most teachers and learners know including the following:
  • attendance matters. Students who are regularly absent or even absent for a week here and there for a special event, typically do miss out on important learning.
  • repetition and practice are very important when it comes to mastering skills.
  • knowing your facts matter--students who don't have fact fluency typically don't do as well on these tests.
  • understanding the nature of a test and using the best strategy for that test matters too--every test is a bit different with regard to the strategies that work best for that test.
As I look at these tests, I am thinking about how I might improve the teaching/learning program next year. Some areas I want to think about are the following:
  • Streamlining the standards' focus for students who are one to two grade levels behind the grade-level expectations. These students need a different program so that they can gain mastery and confidence in their math learning, yet they also need a dedicated program that has high expectations and quality teaching/learning endeavor with students of multiple learning abilities--this is an area of math learning we continue to think about as a team. I know that teachers all over the country are thinking about this and there is some good research out there to support betterment in this area.
  • Advocating for more special support for students who need more support and will profit from greater tutoring or skilled small group instruction.
  • Encouraging all family members and students to know how important attendance and practice are with regard to math learning and mastery at the start of the year.
  • The inclusion of more problem/project based math learning endeavor as well as math performance assessments that include the math writing/presentation process.
  • Looking carefully at the scope and sequence to see how I can carve out more time to teach certain units--it's difficult to fit it all in, and I'd like to look at how we might do a better job with this. 
Test season is a good time to analyze your teaching/learning program--it's a time to think deeply about the assessments you give, the way you analyze, and the program structure and focus. As the world continues to evolve so must our teaching and learning in order to do a good job. Onward.