Friday, February 21, 2014

What's in a Score?

March 18, 2014- That is the day our district begins the field test of the SBAC assessment. 

Meetings have been held to understand the accommodations allowed to the students on the test. Meetings have been held to review the testing protocols and the script teachers must use when proctoring. 
Meetings have been held to now assign those accommodations to the students to level the playing field for students who are taking the test. 

The teacher talk has been consumed with, " Have you SEEN the practice test?" " Have you seen how hard the practice test is?" " Thank god it's only a field test year and not tied to teacher evaluation." 

Students are currently being trained to take the test. Administrators are working to create an extensive schedule for the weeks we are giving the test. PLCS are working together to understand the tasks that will be asked of the students. 

Worries are arising about how the Special Education and ELL students will access the test. What about the typical struggling student? How will they ever demonstrate understanding on the SBAC?

IEP testing accommodation sheets need to be uploaded. ELL testing accommodation sheets need to be uploaded. One person in the school must be assigned the task of uploading all other students and accommodations into the SBAC computer system. 

It seems that all of this needed to be done yesterday! 

While I do think that the Common Core has brought a lot of good to the classroom, I do worry what more testing could do to the students. Sometimes I hear students being described as a score- as a level 38 on the DRA, or a RIT score of 199. And I think- yeah but.... tell me more! What is the student's strengths as a reader? What is the student's strengths as a writer? Focus on what the student can do and not what the student can't do!

But I get it- we are in an era in education when test scores will make or break you as a teacher. Tying teachers performance to testing data undermines the teaching profession. As teachers we are in this job to help our students love math, love reading, love writing, and just love learning! It is our charge to embrace students as they are and guide them towards independent learning. No two students are going to get to the same expectations the same way- And that is okay! Students bring their own set of knowledge, experiences and understanding to each and every lesson we teach. As teachers our job is to bring out the best in our students- to capitalize on what they know. 

Today, I watched a student thump his chest and ROAR like the Incredible Hulk when he finally came to an understanding of conflict and how that might impact a character. He worked so hard by examining posters we had made, listening to other classmates as well as his teacher- and finally he shouted, "She'll have to go against her brother!! That is awful!!" 

Today, I had a pizza dance party for the students I worked with for two weeks. It was a way to celebrate all their hard work and dedication to their  learning. We worked insanely hard at reading for word choice, and text evidence through the reading rituals described in Falling in Love with Close Reading. As I watched them dance around the room and sing along to  "Story of my Life" and " Radioactive", I had an amazing sense of pride for them.  Their connection to music is unimaginable and was the vehicle used to connect their love of music to the love of reading. It is something so simple, yet so powerful. 

These are the moments we need to hold onto as teachers! These are the moments that keep us grounded in our teaching and remind us each and every day why we went into teaching in the first place.  It shouldn't be about SBAC scores, DRA levels, or NWEA scores. Those are merely jumping points for us as teachers. Take those scores and ask, " What more do I need to know about my students? Where can I go next? What more do they need?" Constantly questioning, persevering, and reflecting are all marks of a great teacher. 

Luckily, where I work I am surrounded with these great teachers. I have complete faith in the teachers I work with that we have all prepared the students and helped them grow as learners and people. I have no doubt that we will all survive the SBAC. We will get it done as a team, staff and faculty. And while it might be painful at times, and no doubt stressful- 

We got this! 

"Hold on, to me as we go
As we roll down this unfamiliar road
And although this wave (wave) is stringing us along
Just know you're not alone
Cause I'm gonna make this place your home".... Home by Phillip Phillips


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