Three Things My Students’ Test Scores Won’t Tell You

Every day there appears a new idea for making teachers accountable for student achievement. Yesterday I noticed a pip of an idea in a twitter post: Phys. Ed. teachers should be evaluated based on their students’ fitness level.  This preposterous idea, that the fitness level of a student who has maybe 40 minutes contact time with the physical education teacher, should be the basis for that teacher’s effectiveness is exactly what discourages me. Isn’t there an “outside” influence on such success? Of course there is — the home, the importance a parent places on physical activity  follow-through, not to mention nutrition choices!

And then I began thinking about how our own state testing is going to impact how I am perceived. Here are three things that you won’t see from picking apart my students’ MCAS scores:

Being in class matters: The students who did not regularly attend school had the worst SRI growth — I’m waiting to see what the MCAS data officially looks like, but I won’t be surprised if these same students’ results are not very good.  Their growth from beginning to end of year using the Fountas & Pinnell benchmark (although that’s somewhat subjective) also reflected limited growth. It would appear that something must be taking place in class that would cause students who do come to school to learn. Hmmm, wonder what that could be?

Supportive families matter: Even when students come from some pretty unbelievable socio-economic circumstances (homelessness, poverty, violence), the end-of-year results of students where the parent was a collaborator were positive. What does that say? Could it be that learning in a vacuum without home involvement is rare?

Timing is everything: One of my biggest — notice I said “one of” — is the timing of the state English Language Arts exams.  It happens in March which is, let me count, 7 months into the school year. Please explain how 7 months of learning makes a complete year (10 months). It follows on the heels of ELL testing, the MEPA in Massachusetts. the poor 8- and 9-year old kiddos who have to do all of this get exhausted.

If I’m accountable for learning for an entire third grade year, shouldn’t I get the whole year? This year was a special challenge; students coming from one of the classrooms had a long-term substitute for much of second grade. The regular classroom teacher is a strong, conscientious teacher but the substitute was definitely not up to the task. For these students I spent a LOT of time trying to bridge gaps from second grade. I really could have used more than 7 months for this work.

Isn’t this what bothers educators about state testing tied to evaluations? It is the unknown, random, living-breathing fabric of teaching. We work with humans. Stuff happens. Outside influences impact the final “product”.  There is more to growth (an lack thereof) than testing.


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