Our students need to know that we have a plan to prepare them for career and college readiness. The level of preparedness needed for real success begins in our lower grades. As we celebrate achievement, parents and educators need to be clear about the real story of student success. We have to do better!
Parents need to know that their children are progressing appropriately through school, but the feedback is often confusing even as we look to common assessments that shed little light on skill development and future readiness.
Data driven decisions might work if the data we create really meant that our students were mastering worthy standards.
1. Assessments watered down.
We talk much about understanding the data and being data driven with our decisions. This would be good if mastery of our standards actually got us to where we want to be. In Georgia, we created an assessment to match the common core that was not so common. As many states in the north went to the PARCC Assessment (thought to be one of the toughest assessment in the country) other states opted for something much easier. When the No Child Left Behind Policies hit us, there were consequences for students not achieving the goals so states reduced their standards or watered downed requirements so the reporting would not trigger massive failure of our children and schools. In Georgia, policy-makers created the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests then later moved to the Milestones Test as it was thought the Milestones would have more rigor. So the bar was set at Mastery, but parents, teachers, and students never knew how many questions had to be answered correctly to earn mastery on this assessment as this information was always held in secret. If people knew what the scores actually meant perhaps that would cast doubt about the quality of our work. After a few years of the Milestones achievement results, the new focus was to shift the passing bar, which indicated mastery. The mastery level was initial set at a score of “3” then it changed to “2” (Developing) being the passing score. How does Developing = Mastery? This answer must be in the researched based new math.
2. Lowering the level of expectation. As we change the bar of acceptability, we reward our teachers and students for mediocre work. We used to have a graduation test, but too many students did not pass so we eliminated this requirement and pushed a new level of unprepared students into the work force, but at least they advanced from high school.
3. College and Career Un-readiness. As a result of all of our researched based dollars and professional development, what do we have? Don’t get me wrong, many of our children progress well within the standards mainly because they and their support system require more of them. Now we have a false narrative about how ready our kids are for college. Better get the remedial courses ready because here they come. It’s time to get a clue and get serious about our preparation system. Parents and teachers have to take responsibility for their own learning and teaching. As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, parents have become new teachers. Therefore, as new educators, administrators, decision makers and policy makers we have to do more and better for our students. Do your research, stay informed and seek out programs like MathFest and others that will challenge your child. Get your Singapore Math Books and get busy. We are living in a time of a “new normal”, the success of your child now more than ever depends on it.