About a year ago on this blog, I wrote a piece entitled 364 > 1, in which I tried to emphasize the importance of high quality instruction day in and day out rather that placing all the importance on a one day, high stakes test. To this day, it remains my most read post. I assume that meant that many of the educators that read it agreed with me. However, since that time, the emphasis and pressure for students and campuses to produce on a given assessment has increased even more if that is possible. Our state’s accountability system found a way to disregard the many other data sources available (and mandated such as House Bill 5) to recognize schools that were “perpetually underperforming”. In some cases, “perpetual” has meant that schools with traditionally high student achievement scores that took a ONE year dip and found themselves on the state’s “most wanted” list. There are documented cases of schools with pass rates over 90% that made the list because they didn’t make enough progress based on a complicated series of statistics. Seriously?
My grandfather, who was about as wise a man as I have ever known, never failed to make simple points with strange analogies. He grew up poor in West Texas but became, by all measures a successful business man, husband, and father. I will never forget him telling me, “Dinosaurs are extinct, but jackrabbits still run wild.” When I asked him what he meant, he talked about how too many people become frustrated reaching for the one “big event” that will prove they are successful that they lose sight of all the small things that mean so much. I can’t help but think that we have somehow turned high-stakes tests into Dinosaurs….big, bad, and scary. However, if we remain focused on the little, day to day, activities that improves student learning, we will not only survive, we will thrive…just like the jackrabbits in West Texas.
Daniel Venables, in his book “The Practice of Authentic PLCs” creates a data triangle that highlights the importance of daily lesson planning, formative assessment, and feedback that have the largest impact on student achievement. The message is clear. The results of an End of Course exam or STAAR tests, while important, do little to change teaching and learning. It is the attention to daily results based on learning targets, formative assessment, and observations with feedback that have the potential to change results. In addition, if we don’t use the daily information we gather to change and adapt our own skills, we will, like the dinosaurs, become extinct.
|From bottom to top: What a teacher and students do on a consistent basis has more impact than any high-stakes test!|