Assessment and Achievement Measures-keep the Main Thing the Main Thing

Memo

TO:  Education Practitioners

While lawmakers, state officials, school boards, and others wrestle with adding student achievement as a component of teacher evaluation, it is easy for us all to get caught up in the hype.  There is much hype around ideology, fairness, research efficacy, and certainly the politics of it all.  While it is important to resolve this (frankly) important work–and if we are honest we know that teacher evaluation should be, in-part, tied to growth in student achievement.  However, there is something far more troubling about all of this.

While these debates and discussions remain in-progress and unresolved, too many practitioners (superintendents, principals, teacher leaders, and others) are spending all their energy immersed in the policy debates.  Practitioners should have a voice at the policy table, always.  But, developing policy is rarely the Main Thing.  So, in Assessment and Achievement Measures, we must keep the Main Thing, the Main Thing.

Here is my list of those things we must keep in mind in order to use Assessment and Achievement Measures effectively:

1. No doubt, that which gets measured, gets done.  There must be an underlying commitment to progress measurement for any school or school district or network if it is to excel in its work on behalf of all kids.

2. Data for the sake of data is no better than having no access to data at all

3.  Some types of data reporting and some types of Assessments serve as punitive measures against school principals and teachers and we should stop using them.

4.  Other types of data, are truly assistive to teachers, and help teachers, teams of teachers, students, and families adjust instruction and supports to accelerate the work of every student and that of his/her teacher(s).

5. I remain suspicious of many so-called value-added measures.  If teachers, families, and even students cannot follow the methodology, then the type of measure is likely a category 3 (above) and not a category 4 (above).

6. Pure growth measures, truly accomplished only by adaptive testing so that each student can be assessed to see how far above or how fear below his/her grade level (s)he is.  This type of growth score then helps discern if teachers and their students are accomplishing a year of growth (or more) in a year’s service and better ensuring that kids who are behind, grow more than a year’s worth in a year of service.

7.  Use of category 6 (above) measures are also more authentic, more reliable, and more fair assessments of a teacher’s work; hence, a more responsible part of a teacher’s evaluation.

Both of the teams I work with: Atlantic Research Partners and Distinctive Schools partner with NWEA + Silverback Learning + DIBELS.   These three services help us  and help our clients measure aggressively but not too often, create more help in better ways to teachers in their work, and hold each of us accountable for what we are to accomplish every year, every month, and every day.

I have appreciate so much, the feedback I receive from these posts. This post should really spark some reaction, and I want to “hear” it.  What did I miss?  How can we keep the Main Thing, the Main Thing?

Have a great weekend.

JW

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