One of the things that I was most excited about when we launched Education Post last year was the chance to focus on getting more voices from the classroom into the conversation about public education. For too long, that debate has been dominated by politicians, public officials, and special-interest groups—important voices, but often somewhat removed from the action and at times more focused on the bigger “play” than on impact in the classroom.
When Colorado earlier this month released its statewide scores on the new PARCC assessments, the importance of getting the classroom into the conversation couldn’t have been clearer.
In the wake of the scores being released, our Ed Post blog featured reactions from Colorado politicians (elected members of the Colorado Board of Education) and from a classroom teacher (Jessica Moore, a regular Ed Post contributor and a teacher in Weld County).
Alan Gottlieb, a veteran Colorado journalist with deep knowledge of the issues and the ideologies at work here, wrote a great recap of the reactions that three state board members, speaking from their spots on the political fringes, had to the low proficiency levels on the first year of the tougher PARCC exams.
Several members of the State Board of Education defaulted to the predictable but disappointing hand-wringing and hyperbole about Colorado’s results from the state’s new standardized test…known as PARCC.
“If you take these at face value, almost two-thirds of our students have failed,” said board chair Steve Durham, a Colorado Springs Republican. “I have a hard time believing that number.”
Durham also said accepting the results as accurate means acknowledging that the state’s education system is a “catastrophic failure.”
Now, let’s take the grandstanding out of the equation and hear from Jessica, a teacher who works with standards and assessments every day in her classroom, and someone who clearly takes personal responsibility for making sure kids are learning what they need to succeed.
Blaming the tests is an easy solution, but it doesn’t fix anything.
Instead, it contributes to the misinformation that’s been dubbed an “honesty gap.” If students are labeled as proficient on easier tests but they’re not in fact adequately prepared for college or careers, they’re being given false information that will only hurt them in the long run.
Based on the recent readiness report by ACT, far too many of our children who aspire to college are not prepared for college coursework. Performance on NAEP scores has also confirmed that when met with rigorous assessments designed to measure critical thinking, analytical and problem solving skills, students struggle to meet the bar of proficiency.
Does this mean that there’s a problem with the tests?
On the contrary, the new scale provides an opportunity to set measurable goals for improvement.
When the school-level PARCC results are released later this year, they will offer huge benefits to my fellow teachers and me. As a fifth-grade teacher, I look forward to being able use them to measure the effectiveness of my instruction, to find ways to improve my teaching to support my students.
A perspective that blusters on about “failure” versus one that zeroes in on how to “support my students.” A call to ditch and retreat versus a call to improve and progress.
And another small step in moving the conversation forward.