As it goes, quite a bit has happened in my life since I last posted to this blog. I graduated from college, scored three summer jobs, moved back home, and started tackling the exorbitant number of forms I must complete for grad school next year. It has been a crazy few weeks. But enough about me. On to the blog.
Next week I will be starting a little mini-series about my plans for next year, but today I want to entertain the article that came out in the Times Pic this morning about this year’s LEAP scores. The results, as the article suggests, are certainly a mixed bag in almost every district and test subject. To give you an idea: Fourth graders across the state scored worse in English than they did last year. However, in Orleans Parish (OPSB) and the Recovery School District (RSD), these shortcomings in English were balanced by significant gains in math. Looking at Jefferson Parish, while high school students and fourth graders showed gains in most test subjects, eighth-grade scores generally declined or remained the same.
There are a lot of different ways to interpret these mixed results. Clearly, despite the fact that RSD scores in certain grades still fall despairingly behind state averages, posted improvements indicate that many things are working well in the district (at least for the moment). And obviously, the standard line of “those schools farthest behind show the greatest opportunity for improvement and those at the average still have work to do” applies for all districts. However, it stands to reason that perhaps the value of these results is not so much in their numeric value, but in the role they can play as policy guiders. That is to say, these results are most valuable in that they tell us what skills students still need to learn and hence can help curriculum and instruction designers formulate policy for next year.
I realize that this is a very basic analysis, but every year when LEAP scores are released, I feel as though we spend too much time talking about how districts compare to each other and not enough time talking about how these scores provide a useful compass for classroom instruction. While it is important for accountability purposes to evaluate the results based on their sheer numeric value, with summer here, it is more important to start talking about them in terms of what they tell us about student needs for next year. If we don’t, we miss out a valuable opportunity to partake in meaningful discussions about what students know now and what they need to learn in the coming year to do better in the future.
For all the stress students experience as a result of high stakes standardized testing, it is necessary that they receive more than just a pat on the back for their time and efforts. It is our job to take these results and use them to improve the quality of the education we offer these students. Thus, while we hold districts accountable now for the numbers, perhaps in the future we should also start holding them accountable for displaying the curriculum changes they plan on making as determined by the results of the tests. Just a thought.