Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Tulsa superintendent responds to first grade teachers who refuse to give standardized tests

In the last post, I printed the letter written by two Tulsa first grade teachers explaining why they are refusing to give standardized tests. The letter clearly spelled out nearly everything that is wrong with standardized tests, an over-excessive use of meaningless data, and the nonsense that is being pushed on teachers, students, and parents.

Following is the response of the Tulsa superintendent to the protest. See if you recognize your local superintendent in the language he uses. See also if you can see evidence (and it is there) of the direction in which Race to the Top is leading us.

From the Superintendent:

Passion for learning is one thing that unites us as teachers. In fact, there is an impassioned letter making the rounds today from two of our very own teachers that has captured a lot of public attention. It is honest in its desire to want to give students our very best. In that regard, I applaud its young authors' intentions. However, I must take exception with their call to action, which is to abandon testing.As the public outcry over over-testing begins to build, there is one voice that is not being heard.

That is the voice of the child.

While I understand teacher and student frustration with testing, it is not an option for teachers to refuse to administer the MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) test. We need this critical data if we are to guide and tailor instruction to students who all have very different needs.

The MAP test is not a high-stakes test for students. It is a widely recognized test to monitor student growth and guide instruction, and it is a district requirement.

As our district's student achievement data reveals, we cannot afford to wait until third grade to determine whether students are on track for success. We owe it to our students and their families to do everything in our power to customize instruction and make students prepared for college and career. This means knowing where students are in terms of reading and math readiness and where  they need to be. Anecdotal observation data alone is insufficient to guide instruction.

While I understand the frustration of these beginning teachers, it takes a person experienced at using data to know how to use it to guide instruction. We need this data to monitor growth and improve results for all of our students.

Every student is capable of learning, and our job is to make that happen. Developmentally appropriate assessments in kindergarten through third grade give us the data to identify what kids know, what they are ready to learn and what they must be taught in order to ensure all students grow. It is every teacher's obligation to assist us in that effort and it is what is right for students.

In our experience, teachers unfamiliar with techniques that use reading and math data to guide  instruction don't understand how valuable it is when customizing instruction for students. Data is only valuable when it is properly used. Our partners in Oklahoma and across the nation who are using data like MAP to monitor student growth and guide their instruction are getting impressive results and their teachers cannot imagine working without the data. Many of our teachers have deep experience using this data and it is a powerful tool when combined with their personal observations and monitoring of student progress.

With regard to the use of MAP data and value-added reporting it is important to note that the value-added from MAP is for "information only" this school year (unless a teacher elects to include it) in order to allow teachers time to understand and respond to the data. Many teachers will opt to include this information, as it finally allows us to unmask the great work that is occurring in our schools. At a later date, value-added data from MAP will be used as part of the "multiple measures" report.

As for teachers "opting out," opting out is not an option.


Dr. Keith Ballard

No comments: