Monday, April 13, 2015

Measuring progress

First, I want to state that I believe in accountability.

Parents send their children to school because there is an expectation that students will learn.

A community supports schools because there is an expectation that schools will help students learn.

Part of my responsibility is to be able to demonstrate that children learn in the classrooms in my school district.

Today, in Michigan, we begin our M-STEP (Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress) testing window.

I understand the need for an external evaluation - an unbiased look at the performance of my students. 

But, is this really the way?

Last week I was baking cookies. Suddenly this ad showed up on my TV.

video

Pearson, a company whose mission is to "help people make more of their lives through learning", is recruiting college graduates to become temporary M-STEP test scorers. (Here is the job description listed on their website.)

I would receive a 10% pay differential for the evening shift!

As I said, I believe in accountability. Students, parents, and community members need to know if students are learning.

Those who teach and those of us responsible for schools need to know if what we are doing is making a difference.

But do I really want the effort of my teachers and the performance of my students to hinge on the ability of temp workers hired by a multinational educational conglomerate who have been trained for a few days to determine if my students demonstrate proficiency on the standard?

I would much rather trust the judgment of my teachers. I would much rather include in any assessment of the performance of my students a judgment rendered by someone who has spent time with these students, who has seen the growth in these students, who has evidence gathered over the course of the school year about the progress these students have made.

Instead, my state of Michigan following the direction of the federal Department of Education, has chosen to measure the progress of my students using only one measure - the M-STEP. My state and the federal government have also chosen to rank and evaluate my schools and my teachers based on this one measure.

I want to see the results of the M-STEP.

But I also want to be able to include for everyone to see the evidence my teachers have gathered over the course of the year about the progress of my students. This gives me a better picture of the growth of my students. It shows me how far each student has come over the course of the year.

But that requires that we trust a teacher's judgment.

It also requires that we understand the complex nature of performance.

I trust my teacher's judgment.

I also believe that my students and their parents deserve more than a score on a test to determine if schools are doing a good job.

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