It is that time of the year again: School state assessment scores have been released. People will begin to make comparisons on which schools are better than other schools. The competition has begun. Schools will be sent their “grades” during the summer, and districts will boast about this or that. Supposedly, these school grades tell the whole story about a school or district.
BESE and the Legislature in past sessions have set up a system of grading, or making accountable, the teachers at each school. These are the touted VAM /SLT scores. Students are given set achievement levels by the state, and teachers work towards those goals, (even though the teachers don’t know the specific goals for each student.)
At the end of the school year, during the summer months, the teachers receive their results based on each student’s growth or decline from the goal set by the state. It is from these results that teachers find out if the state considers them to be highly effective, effective proficient, effective emerging or ineffective.
The state assessment tests, LEAP and iLeap, are used to grade the schools. More students scoring at the top tiers of advanced and mastery earn more points for their schools than the students who score basic and below. But does that show true educational growth? A student may score advanced in a certain subject but, in reality, dropped from the projected growth expected by the state. That student’s teacher for that subject matter “failed,” according to the state, or didn’t produce the results that the state predicted for that student. The school still gets the high points for the advanced score, but, in reality, according to this one test taken during one week in the spring, the student really didn’t grow academically.
If we really want to see what our schools are doing and see if students are growing and teachers are being successful, I would like for the state to drop the school grade based on the state assessment tests and go to a scale on the effectiveness of the faculty on each campus. Those are the results that would really represent what is going on in the classroom.
A school may be a D or C school, but the faculty at that school could be taking students who are struggling and showing more growth than a school that received an A.
If we want to really see if improvement is being achieved, let’s look at where the real education is taking place — in the classroom.