I recently read two great quotes that really landed with me, one published by Make Education a Priority (MEaP) in a Facebook post and another I saw on Facebook by Rita Pierson. For those who have not seen the quotes, here they are.
MEaP – “I care more about the people my students become than the scores on the tests they take.”
Rita Pierson, Educator – “Every child deserves a champion; an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection and insists they become the best they can possibly be.”
These two quotes, certainly augmented by many other social media posts that focus on the student, put the emphasis on where it should be in public education, on the students themselves. While I saw (but then couldn’t find) another post that really reinforced this message, it was along the lines of asking students how they are doing rather than relying strictly on tests as a barometer of success.
But that’s just not the way that we do it. We continue to think that a system of high stakes assessment is the best way to gauge how well our students are learning. And while that is a helpful resource, it should not be the only way that we evaluate the success of public education. There are just too many variables (socioeconomic status, single family households, ESL, etc.) that have an impact and there is no way to normalize results for these variables. Yet we continue to focus on STAAR results with an eye now toward moving to an A-F rating system in school year 2017-2018.
If we step back for a minute and really care about how all of this impacts students and teachers, we might come to a different conclusion about what our students are learning and how we might better approach this. Many parents are now using fears and concerns about high stakes testing to opt of these tests (subject of a future blog). And there is a very recent report published by the National Conference of State Legislatures (ncsl.org) titled No Time to Lose: How to Build a World Class Education System State by State. In many states, business-as-usual just isn’t achieving the goals and enabling students to achieve their potential. We have to change that but also need to understand the gaps between business-a-usual and the desired state of education. Asking students is a good starting point for that effort.
A great example of where student input is important can be found in the second tenet of the report, that there needs to be greater emphasis (and funding) on career and technical education than there is today. In my household, my son is a great example of where a CTE program might have helped him find his way once he graduated from high school. Six months after high school, he knew exactly what he wanted to do and he is approaching twenty years with the same company … but he had to find that on his own. Asking him while he was a public education student would have been of great benefit to him.