I took a look at the published MCAS scores from last year. I'm always disappointed because I want to see all of my students reach proficiency or exceed expectations, and as with most schools and grade levels, there were still some students who were progressing towards meeting standards or not meeting the standards. A deep look at the math scores showed that there were a couple of question types we could have improved on, and an area or two we can strive for deeper teaching. Late year assessments last spring demonstrated the need for deeper teaching and more constructed responses in some areas, while the question type students struggled the most with was a surprise--I didn't imagine the standards to mean that kind of reach. Of course we've remedied that with regard to this year's program plans. I was happy, however, to see an increase in students who exceeded expectations and a decrease in those not meeting the expectations.
As always, the students who did the best on MCAS generally did their homework, showed great attention in class, came in for extra help when available, and put extra energy into projects, bonus assignments, and more. Those who struggled the most, and did not face significant complexity in learning for multiple reasons, generally did not do their homework, were absent more than other children, showed less or little attention in class, and did not take advantage of extra help sessions or bonus learning.
Further, it seems that our science efforts were well directed last year, and we have a lot in place to develop those efforts more in the year ahead.
What I like about the MCAS scores, is that it helps me to look deeply at each standard and get an overview of how we did and what we can do to deepen our efforts to teach that standard well. What's frustrating is that you can work really hard and smart, and still not achieve what you hope for due, in part, to extraneous circumstances such as students who miss too many days of school or students who are difficult to teach due to behavioral issues, issues that are typically complex.
Today, in school, I'll tell students about what it takes to learn well, and then we'll continue down our standards-based math learning path--a path that includes all standards taught in a myriad of ways. I'll also put aside a day soon to review students' homework to date to get an idea about who is doing that work and who is not.
And I'll work with colleagues to make sure we have a solid program, a program that includes the following elements:
- quality time on task with learning each day
- rich learning experiences
- a variety of formal and informal assessments used to inform instruction
- good support for students who need extra or different instructional supports
- a good amount of learning response
Helping every child to do their best and master all the standards is a much like climbing a mountain--it's that day-by-day ascent that requires good planning, focus, and apt response.