Dear NYS, What to Do When Your Scores Come Out Tomorrow

Schools have started hearing preliminary score reporting today and tomorrow is the official release of the results of the latest round of NYS ELA standardized testing.  These tests were, as you know, full of controversy (I wrote about some of the fray and one educator’s experience on SmartBlog on Education: “Testing: Are Percentage of Students Crying Valuable Data?”).

by Pink Sherbet Photography used under Creative Commons Lic

So what should you do when you find out your scores?

First.

Know that this “drop” was expected. It was spoken about months ago and now again the state Commissioner and the US Secretary of Education reportedly spoke today about the drop in scores. Your school is not alone, your classroom is not alone, this is everyone.

Second.

Don’t plan your year in response to one exam, one score. Anyone with basic statistical skills will remind you that trends are far more important that blips. And blips (and trends) live within a larger system. You are not a one-year island.

Do triangulate scores with your own data. The conversations you study, the student writing and reading you look over, the daily artifacts you collect. As educators we want to know what are kids can do, what their strengths are, what their next steps could be. Seeing a trend in data – all data, not just one test – is useful to reflective practitioners.

Then, in the advice of Michael Fullan – aim to build on strengths, not take on hundreds of initiatives no human could ever fully implement all at once.  Between scores and student work you notice great things happening in terms of essay writing? Study it. Build on it.  Between scores and student work you notice a positive trend in how students think about literature? Study it. Build on it. Success breeds success.

Third.

Feel what you authentically feel. Today I felt shocked. And pissed off. And really, really sad. And angry again. And sad again. And resolute to speak out. And sad again. And angry.  For a variety of reasons:

  • I know many great teachers through this process are becoming disenchanted with our local system.
  • I know your job could be effected by these results and that is scary.
  • I know kids often feel defined by numbers and scores.
  • I know many parents are feeling angry and confused.
  • I know more and more instructional time is going towards test preparation for tests that are getting harder and harder to see any pay off to this prep. Yet in many schools the prep grows.
  • I know in many schools budgets are going toward “fix-it” curriculums and textbooks and technology stamped with the claim to “raise scores” or be “common core aligned”, money that would be better spent going to books, and arts, and real technology, and teachers, and and and.
  • I know the story of a failed system is not all that it seems.

I also know

Fourth.

Connect. Join twitter, blogs, wikis, nings, conventions, local reading councils, open your classroom doors. Tests don’t develop instructional practices, practitioners develop instructional practices together.

Fifth.

Remember why you joined this amazing, vibrant, challenging, inspiring, life-altering profession.

You are some child’s most important adult.

You are some child’s inspiration.

You are some child’s life path.

You are some child’s joy.

We need you–when it feels impossible, when it feels wonderful–We need you.