More to the Score

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This coming spring, our students and staff will tackle a new test to measure achievement.  This is the same test that measures adequate yearly progress (AYP) and will label our school either as succeeding or as failing.  Preparing to faciliate this test has not been easy.  Actually, we are not quite sure if our technology infrastructure is suitable to meet the needs of the testing software.  As we get closer, I’m sure we will learn more, but anxiety has already set in amongst the staff. 

This anxiety is not just attributed to whether or not we are capable of running the test, but it is also due to the fact that not only does the test have implications for our students, it carries quite a bit of weight for the staff as well.  You see, the label will also attach itself to our administrators and teachers.

I would like to remind you that this is one test.  It’s a standard test.  Every child takes the same test.  So the idea that children learn differently and excel when curriculum is delivered to fit their learning styles gets thrown out the window for this test.  Your intelligent child who’s not good at taking tests but can build anything with his/her hands, is already at a disadvantage.  Your child that is extremely creative and innovative but struggles taking multiple-choice tests is also at a disadvantage.

This one test will be taken in three days.  Your child goes to school for 175 days.  If you were going to measure your child’s intelligence, would you average three days or 175?  My point is simple.  You cannot get an accurate read on learning or intellectual ability from one test.  Besides, I can think of a number of different environmental factors that could play into the student’s test scores as well. 

Interestingly enough, something came across my Twitter feed the other day that caught my eye, and it is applicable to this.  How many tests do we get to “do over” in our lives until we master them?  If we fail a driver’s license test, we get to do it over.  As a teacher, I took the Praxis test twice because I did not pass the first time.  How about the ACT and the SAT?  You get the opportunity to improve your score on those exams as well.  Just about any certification course allows you to take it until you pass it.  You get one shot at this test in high school.  Your score as a junior is the score that determines proficiency for yourself and collectively for your school.

This test only measures academic ability in science, reading, and math.  It does not measure your child’s creativity.  It does not measure motivation or curiosity, nor does it take into account dependability, kindness, or loyalty.  To go further, it does not measure your child’s leadership abilities or courage.  To sum it up, this test does not measure character, and character is a large part of intelligence.

What if students could choose the way in which they take the test?  What if mastery could be determined through a variety of different mediums?  How about building something to show mastery in math?  What would be wrong with a student doing a science project to show mastery in science?  How about letting students write a story, blog, poem, or song to show mastery in literacy?  If we give students the choice, we will get a truer measure of their achievement.

So why do we use this test, you might ask?  We use it for different reasons.  Number 1, it is required. We don’t have a choice.  Number 2, we do get some academic value from the test.  We can use this test, along with many of our other assessments, to get an accurate read of a child’s progress.  It is also a tool we can use to compare ourselves to the rest of the state of North Dakota.  When you add the results of the test to the other 172 days of instruction and assessments, we can get an accurate read of our student’s academic levels.  As you can see, the test does have some value and your child should do the best they can on it.

In a couple months, the test will be upon us.  Our school will do whatever it takes to ensure we are ready to facilitate it.  Please understand that there is more to your child’s intelligence than this one test score.  If our scores meet the achievement goals – great.  If our scores don’t meet the achievement goals – ok.  No matter what happens, let me say this: “We have a great school.  We have awesome students and a wonderful staff.  We continue to achieve each and every day.  Our students will go on to be successful citizens.  We understand that a score on one test does not define us.  What does define us is our character and perseverance to become better.”

Travis Jordan

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