Use Test Data Appropriately in an Educational, not Business, Model for Public Schools

The following comments should be of value to those of Georgia’s Legislature, especially to the members of Georgia’s House and Senate Educational Committees, as to how to insure that all students in public schools throughout Georgia meet with success.  The comments were posted on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s educational blog of educational columnist Maureen Downey (see link: http://getschooled.blog.ajc.com/2015/01/30/new-georgia-school-chief-visits-two-failing-schools-state-grades-dont-tell-the-full-story/) on January 31 and February 1, 2014:

 

MaryElizabethSings

MaryElizabethSings

@living-in-outdated-ed

Data must be analyzed with insight and balance. Data should be used primarily for instructional diagnostic purposes not to cast blame in an unrealistic mindset of simple answers to complex problems.

Another poster:  

@MaryElizabethSings

No argument that data ought to be analyzed with insight and balance, and that it should be used for instructional diagnostic purposes. I’d remove the “primarily” qualifier, however. To limit the use of data to purely diagnostic applications enables teachers/departments/schools with entrenched resistance to evidence-based best practice to continue to resist improvement, blame the kids and parents, and fail year after year. This is by no means the only variable, but it is a strong contributing factor in many cases of failing schools, and it is utterly unacceptable in the 21st century. It is naive to believe that simply providing training, showing the way, and encouraging teachers to use the data they are provided will spur all of them to do so.

MaryElizabethSings

MaryElizabethSings  

@ the other poster

Your words sound reasonable, but what you are proposing is setting up a business model for public education in which teachers are blamed for lack of progress based on data, which by definition, is limited in scope and depth in understanding the expanse of educational problems.  I have more faith in the ability of teachers to change their tactics than you do.  I am not condescending to teachers and I would never try to force change upon them with which they could not concur would help to improve students’ performance.  That is not consistent with the teaching process of “leading out.”  Yours, imho, is the tactic of the dictator, and that business model tactic would change the humane nature of the entire school environment.

https://maryelizabethsings.wordpress.com/2013/04/01/use-an-educational-model-not-a-business-model-for-public-education

 Another poster:

@MaryElizabethSings

You are of course entitled to your opinion, ma’am. My current staff and colleagues in previous schools I’ve led would differ profoundly, as would the parents and students, and that’s all that matters to me. Interesting to see how you draw such enomrmously broad conclusions about my leadership style and presume to assess it, although you have no administrative experience of your own nor have you ever met me or watched me work. You know that I am a charter school leader, and that colors every single pronouncement you make from your secluded armchair of retirement through your jaundiced eye of lockstep defense of the status quo. Not every teacher needs to be in the public school classroom–that’s a simple fact. Too many people who damage children continue to have access to them. I have tremendous faith in the ability of MANY teachers to change their practice. I also have 25 years’ experience in the classroom and the administrative office and I know that there are also some who will absolutely refuse to do so, even when confronted with specific data over years at a time demonstrating that what they are doing is simply not working. What they are doing, most of the time, is trying to teach all the students a single lesson plan without taking into account any possible differences in skill levels and prior knowledge. Their position is, “I’ve been teaching [fill in the subject] for XX years, and if they don’t learn it, it’s not my fault.”  I’ll tell you what, Mary Elizabeth–after you’ve put in ten+ years leading schools and working as a principal with a faculty, I’ll be glad to talk administrative policy with you. Until then, I am not going to attempt again to engage with someone who (1) knows very, very little about contemporary school leadership dynamics; and (2) is completely biased against school choice. It’s just not worth the effort.

MaryElizabethSings

MaryElizabethSings 

@ the other poster

You have some sweeping generalities in that long post.  And, you make quite a few erroneous assumptions.  I have worked 25+ years in school leadership.

As an Instructional Lead Teacher in a model innovative school of multiaged groupings and continuous progress format, without walls, I worked directly under the Principal as the implementer of his vision.  I did not teach students during that decade.  My office was between the outer office and that of the principal.  My state certification included being a Supervisor of Reading and a Data Collector (which required that I evaluate other teachers), as well as being an English teacher and Reading Specialist.  As an ILT, I evaluated other teachers and I worked with teams of teachers in the school to build their understanding of how to assess student placement correctly and how to instruct to that specific placement.  All teachers turned in their end of level tests throughout the year to my office for me to analyze each student’s score in reading and mathematics.  Together we built a magnificient public school.  I was fortunate that that knowledgeable principal chose me to be his right-hand person to help implement his educational vision.

When I transferred to the high school level after he retired, those principals with whom I worked made me a schoolwide Reading Chairperson to assess all students in the school in reading skills.  I wrote a reading informational book for teachers to use reading in the content areas, which I distributed to all curriculum Department Heads.  I gave teachers workshops in how to use those teaching strategies in their classes.  I worked with all English teachers in the high school to test all 1800 students in the school on the Nelson or Nelson Denny Reading Test and I interpreted those results for all of the school’s teachers.  I gave individual training and solicited individual input from every teacher about how those strategies were working in their classrooms.  I worked with all counselors as Chair of the Student Support Team and trained them as to how to utilize the results of our In-House reading tests for more pinpointed placement.  I urged them to share those test results with parents.  I gave many parent workshops in order to educate parents in this ongoing process to help every student succeed in an environment of mutual support.  For the efforts, my county’s Department of Instruction nominated me to be a candidate for Teacher of the Year of a major corporation.  The corporation selected me as one of their Teachers of the Year based on my work and results.

I have no idea how you function as a school leader, but I do know that your posts to me have been less than egalitarian in spirit and that your words in your post, above, read so mandatory as to be dictatorial, imo.

MaryElizabethSings

MaryElizabethSings

@Lynn43

How long, Oh Lord, how long?  When are the people who read this blog going to realize that there is a wise instructional option to social promotion and that is teaching each student where he is functioning on every curriculum continuum, regardless of his grade level.  Students who are misplaced for instruction will often refuse to do the work as a mask for being misplaced and thereby not grasping the material.

More diagnostic data is needed for each student (in a student’s developmental history on computers) to determine the truthful facts about each student’s progress or lack thereof.  We must stop making assumptions about why students fail and, instead, turn to diagnosis with test data to know for certain why given students fail, as the medical profession does with sick patients.

Wascatlady

Wascatlady 

@MaryElizabethSings

 Mary Elizabeth, I agree with you.  But there is NO WAY this course of action will EVER be funded in Georgia, nor supported in any way.

MaryElizabethSings

MaryElizabethSings 

@Wascatlady

Never say never, Wascatlady.  My last high school before I retired received a grant from the state of Georgia for $25,000. in 2000 to implement a form of this plan which I designed to be implemented in that high school just before I retired.

Quidocetdiscit

Quidocetdiscit 

@MaryElizabethSings

Mary Elizabeth,

We are doing our level best to meet the individual needs of our students, but as I am sure you know from experience, that gets very difficult when you have a class where some are reading at a 5th grade level and some are at a K-1 level.  We make use of parent volunteers, Title and EIP instructors, flexible groups, small group instruction, para pros etc. to do all we can to differentiate instruction, but now, thanks to the new “accountability” rules put into place to make us do a “better” job, we are actually having MORE trouble reaching all our students since our students are now “locked in” to certain classes with particular teachers for a particular percentage of the year – so our ability to flexible groups has been curtailed.  So, once again, the bureaucracy designed to “improve” education is actually making things worse. I am so utterly sick of it!  If a school does their job well, and is succeeding, then the big wigs need to leave them the heck alone and let them do what they do best!  Or even better, go into the succeeding schools and find out what they do well rather than spending all the energy with the same “one size fits all” approach to educational improvement  that they push us to apply to student learning.  If a school is succeeding, then they do not need to be hammered with all these “reform” measures that do nothing but make my job even more difficult!

MaryElizabethSings

MaryElizabethSings 

@Quidocetdiscit

In many ways, I agree with your points, Quid.  I especially agree with this sentence you wrote: “Or even better, go into the succeeding schools and find out what they do well rather than spending all the energy with the same ‘one size fits all’ approach to educational improvement  that they push us to apply to student learning.”

Your post actually reaffirms what I have continuously stated:  There will always be students functioning on different grade level curriculum in the same grade level because all students do not learn at the same rate to mastery.

When I post, the audience I am trying to reach are those in administration at the county office level and at the school level.  I want those in administration first to start believing that what I am writing is true and that the ONLY way they are ever going to help every student meet with success is to design schools that can have flexible scheduling with teachers having much more input about the continuous placement of students in the groupings throughout the school, or at least throughout the department.

Thank you for what you do daily to teach students.  I know what obstacles teachers must overcome and one of the most blatant which I read about on this blog are adults who have spent a professional lifetime in other careers telling teachers how to teach.  Their arrogance is incredible.  Don’t let any of this deter you.  Keep your eye on the prize, and that is each student.  Why not get a group of teachers together to talk with your administrator about letting teachers have time blocks together (without students) so that they can plan instructional delivery for, say, 150 students, together)

In the meantime, I hope this will give you some additional techniques for dealing with students who have multi-level instructional needs in the same grade level:

https://maryelizabethsings.wordpress.com/2013/03/23/ways-to-teach-students-who-are-functioning-on-different-instructional-levels-in-the-same-grade/

Another poster:

@Wascatlady

Diagnostic, data-driven instruction is what is used in Massachusetts.  It began when the MCAS assessment system was implemented after the state curriculum frameworks were drafted. The drafting/review team included many teachers. I was one of the MCAS readers for ELA exams while I was a classroom teacher.

With statewide data warehousing, it is possible for teachers to review student performance data in ELA and math going back for several years and pinpoint within a specific classroom, down to the student and standard levels, exactly where students have excelled and where they have struggled.
The Student Longitudinal Data System here in Georgia provides a similar level of detailed analysis over time. The key is ensuring that teachers have access to the SLDS and are trained to use it. Although GA teachers are not given access to released testing items in sufficient time to use them for purposes of instructional adjustment, the way that Massachusetts teachers always have been, they do have the Online Assessment System item bank to be able to generate their own diagnostic assessments using items developed in Georgia by fellow teachers and the State.

MaryElizabethSings

MaryElizabethSings  

@ the other poster

Thank you for this current information regarding teacher use of testing items on computers.  I can envision personnel hired within a school to generate such updated testing instructional items on computers for teachers, so that the teachers themselves do not have to spend hours of their own time plugging this info into the computers.  After the computer resource person for the school updates the instructional testing data for each student, teachers would be able to pull this diagnostic information up for a whole class in a matter of seconds.  Likewise, if teachers were allowed to plan together in a team approach for a group of 150 students in several teachers classes (while the students are outside in P. E. activities), the developed computer program would allow the teachers to team- generate instructional groupings that are homogeneous in instructional need, across several classes and even across several grades.  As the teachers move students in their section of the building to other teachers’ classes for instructional pinpointed groupings, teachers overall would have much less differentiation to cover within their individual classes. (Five heads are better than one.)  Teachers need the administrative flexibility to be able to structure this grouping design within the school, using the computer data as the intial genesis of the groupings with verbal input added.  One last point:  Confidential I Q scores should also be a part of this mix of data on the computer programs because students with lower IQs will, in general, not be able to move through concepts to mastery level as quickly as those students whose IQs are much higher.  Because IQ can vary from year to year to some extent, these scores likewise should be confidentially updated.

Another poster: 

@MaryElizabethSings

 I hired a Director of Data Operations to oversee these processes and free teachers up to use the information to refine their teaching. Our student information systems vendor has been engaged to do the data entry legwork so teachers don’t have to. The Director will train instructional staff on how to generate the types of reports teachers need to be able to identify specific students in need of specific remediation so that teachers are able to group students accordingly. The Director also will produce reports so that instructional leadership administrators are able to analyze data and see trends to share with the teaching staff.

MaryElizabethSings

MaryElizabethSings  

@ the other poster:

Excellent.  This computer access to test data should also be implemented in traditional public schools across Georgia, which have value beyond simply relying on test results (which I described above in complimenting State Superintendent Woods’ balanced approach to educational processes).

Woods believes in running schools throughout Georgia within a family-type, loving, joy-filled school environment, which I refer to as an “educational model,” as opposed to a “business model,” for public education.

For more detail, see link below:

https://maryelizabethsings.wordpress.com/2013/04/01/use-an-educational-model-not-a-business-model-for-public-education/

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