Friday, October 05, 2012

coloring outside the bubble

Today was a district workshop day. I did not go into education wanting to spend my day sitting in an auditorium or cafeteria with adults only, so I will admit up front to these not being my favorite days. PD* (jargon, baby... we all make our fun in the way that is best for us...) is important in all professions, however, so I find my way to get something out of the day.

*professional development

We were shown a slide of our district proficient/not proficient scores for math and reading data, I think for last year. The slide was scary-- as kids got older, their proficiencies dropped, at least according to the NECAPs or SATs.

I got a bit of my math geek on (again, we all find our own forms of entertainment. I like doing math without a calculator. What about it?) and figured out the percentages by hand. Even if you didn’t do that, it was obvious that about 67% of our elementary students are proficient, and about 33% aren’t yet; middle schoolers are about 50-50%; and high school has more kids not proficient than are.

We were then asked to figure out why, and the hope (strongly implied from the presentors) was we would see this was reason to change our instruction practices. MCL, here we come!

But wait... what if the problem isn't with the test takers, but the tests themselves?

I saw more fault with the disconnect between how we teach kids today, and how we then assess them. We have kids engaged in conversation in classrooms, working in groups and engaging in authentic learning. When is the last time you saw an AUTHENTIC SAT section? (And how authentic can anything be for a 17 year old at 8 AM on a Saturday morning, other than the back of their eyelids?) The tests we use do not line up with how we teach kids-- and the further you get from elementary school, the worse that disconnect becomes.

There is no doubt that we need to change our teaching, and we need to keep evolving to meet the needs of our learners. But we also need to change our tests to reflect what we’re asking of those learners. Right now we’re doing EXACTLY what we know is bad practice-- we assess kids in ways that do not match up with how we taught the material. And by ‘we’, I mean State and Federal DOEs. We all know that our kids know more than they are able to show on standardized testing, and until we can change how we’re being assessed, we will never hit the target.

[Teachers out there-- can I get a what what?]

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