Thursday, June 11, 2015

A Confession

I've blogged about my concerns with the Smarter Balanced Assessments earlier in a blog titled, "What's Wrong with this Picture?" so I won't repeat my concerns.  Our 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders took the assessments beginning in April and ending sometime in May when the last students submitted their results.  It was a challenge for many, especially those students who aren't at grade level yet.

We started getting results in mid-May, a few at a time.  Our scores are not looking great.  We were prepared for lower scores than previous statewide assessment results; after all, this is a new test, and our students are not used to that format.

Before the school year ended, I was having a conversation with a teacher I really respect. She co-taught in an inclusion classroom and many of her students struggled academically.  Several of them had special needs or English was not their primary language. However, no one would know that when they observed in this classroom and saw the students collaborating on projects, sharing presentations, asking questions of each other to clarify what was shared, or working in groups to solve a complex math problem. "They have come a long way since the beginning of the year," this teacher shared, "but they still struggle with academic language.  They need that opportunity to discuss with their peers first. Then they can communicate their ideas but writing will still be a challenge for them."

So knowing that the SBAC results may not reflect our students' true potential, why do I keep checking several times a day to see if any more results are posted and if our percentage of students with a score of 3 or 4 has gone up? I wish I could care less, but hard as I try, I find myself looking at the scores and feeling somewhat disappointed.

After all, I know that the public uses test scores to judge our schools.  We see headlines in the paper comparing schools by test scores, and we see magazines use the State Strive-Hi results to give our public schools a letter grade.  There are winners and losers when the media opts to grade schools on a bell curve.  My heart tells me not to worry about test scores, but my head wonders if there's more we can do to help our students be more successful on these kinds of assessments.

As the principal of our school, I was conflicted.  As I reflected on this quandary, I remembered a fable titled, "The Animal School" written by George Reavis back in the 1940's.  This fable reminded me that our job as educators is to see the possibilities in every child and to help every student achieve to their fullest potential.  That is what is important, and that is why I have been an educator for over four decades.

Will I continue to check the SBAC results every day? Probably, but I will look at the results as just one piece of data and definitely not the most important one for our students.

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