(While not my focus here, it is important to note that as I write this it is October 29, 2015, and we have still not received district or school summaries for this state assessment. The state required this assessment and yet its relevance and its impact is obviously significantly limited because of the delay in returning results to the districts. But that is a discussion for another time.)
It was bad!
The Michigan Department of Education felt compelled to release overall statewide results before allowing individual districts an opportunity to see building or district results. Preparing us and the public for bad news! In releasing these results the Michigan Department of Education press release tried to soften the blow by saying:
“With this all-new and more rigorous test,
we expected statewide student scores to
be lower than what we’d seen with the old MEAP tests. . .
In order to prepare our students for the careers of the 21st Century
and to vault Michigan to become a Top Ten education state in 10 years,
we need high standards and rigorous assessments
This year’s results set the new baseline from which to build."
Reading between the lines what this says is that we did bad but we expected that.
But it also says to me is that the Michigan Department of Education believes that what teachers and classrooms have been doing for the past several years has not been preparing students for 21st century careers and that our standards have been too low and certainly too easy.
We need to know if a child is learning. We need to know if a child has the ability to write, think, communicate, explain, and create. We need to make sure that the time spent in our schools and in our classrooms is preparing students for their future.
I do not want a school system that pushes students along without providing them with the skills and talents that they will need to live their lives fully and successfully.
Figuring out if students are learning and if students are prepared for their future is important.
But tests don't reveal everything that we need to know about a student.
There are people and organizations that believe that tests truly reveal everything there is to know about students and schools.
Those people and organizations are wrong!
Tests give us a slice of information. Tests give us one perspective. Test should be included in our conversation.
But there is so much more to our students and to our schools.
I see good things happening in these classrooms. I see dedicated teachers making a difference. I see students engaged in meaningful and important work.
These conversations, these struggles are not captured in a single test score. No matter how many experts with advanced degrees create the tests and how carefully the tests are constructed the tests do not reveal if a child will be successful.
I want meaningful conversations between parents and students to focus on whether or not students are developing passions and purpose, critical thinking skills, and the ability to create, communicate, and collaborate. And, for a minute or two, I would like the teacher and the parent to examine test scores to see what they add to the conversation.
We can and should use test scores to help us examine our practice. But test scores should not be the only piece of information that we deem worthy of examining.
Our Michigan test scores will be revealed to us at some point. There will be gnashing of teeth and wagging of fingers.
But my students, my teachers, and my schools are not test scores!