Saturday, August 18, 2018

It's Not All About the Tests

I cull important data from the results of standardized tests. I notice who achieves well on those tests and who does not. I match what I see with what we did as educators and then tweak the schedule, routine, curriculum, and approaches to gain greater success for all students with the standardized tests.

After many years of analyzing test results, I've noted the following important ingredients to doing well on class size:

  • Teachable class sizes and make-up--the right amount of students and complexity for good teaching. Too many students and too much complexity with too little support will not result in good test scores or good teaching.
  • A solid standards-based curriculum program that allows children to learn with voice, choice, enthusiasm, leadership, advocacy, and happiness. Teach all the standards with good depth, reach, and a variety of methods.
  • Educators who understand the standards with depth and ability.
  • Positive routines, protocols, and expectations for behavior, collaboration, and attitude in the classroom.
  • Meeting Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) with fidelity and strength--we can't overload special educators with too many students and too little time and expect good results--they need the right number of students and adequate time to teach well.
  • Good scheduling so that students have a positive routine of daily study in the areas that matter most.
  • An emphasis on developing positive relationships amongst teachers, students, and families. 
I really like getting the test data as it points out where we do well and where we have room for improvement. For example there are some students who still don't do well on tests, and I think we can better support these students' test-related learning by using more deep one-to-one support, hiring different types of teachers with different kinds of experience, re-looking at the way we staff and schedule support programs, re-considering class make up with regard to numbers and complexity, and re-thinking family-school connections as well as social supports to see how we might help these students more. 

So while I remain a fan of streamlined standardized tests that do not use all the school system's money with a test-only focus, I also know that we need a rich and full curriculum program that develops students ability to problem solve, engage with others, learn with depth, and be exposed to the wonder that learning is in all kinds of realms. That's why in addition to streamlined standardized testing, I'm also a fan of the following elements of a solid teaching/learning program:
  • project/problem based learning
  • social-emotional learning
  • field studies, expert visitors, and special events
  • service learning 
  • teamwork and collaboration
  • passion/interest/need-driven learning that meets a child where he/she is and helps them to create rich learning paths related to their needs, interests, and passions.
When we look out into the world, we know that students who learn the content well and are able to succeed on tests have a solid knowledge foundation, but that's not all students need to succeed. Students need to be able to solve problems, collaborate with others, utilize good emotional intelligence, think creatively, and passionately create and engage in worthy learning paths that help self and others. 

So as I think of the learning program we create and recent test scores, I am looking at ways to deepen and strengthen our test-related efforts, ways that provide rich teaching/learning opportunities, regular meaningful response, and a consistent schedule of time-on-task learning in beneficial ways--ways that stick.

I am also thinking about the program in general and how we inspire confident, enthusiastic, broad-minded students, the kind that are ready for the next grade, school, and future pursuits and the kind that introduces them to the wonder and potential that learning holds. 

There is much we can do to empower our learners in ways that matter, and I look forward to taking my analysis into discussions with others as we think about ways to develop our teaching/learning more in the days to come.