A School District Should Take Student Learning Seriously

Former Mason Crest Elementary School principal Brian Butler reminded me of a post I made on this blog years ago, A School That Takes Student Learning Seriously. One thing I mentioned in that post is that teachers need to be given time to work together and learn from each other. At the heart of each meeting is finding ways to ensure each and every child succeeds. Such effort demonstrates that the school is indeed taking student learning seriously. This morning, I was in a meeting with some of my son's teachers. During the meeting, I inquired about a reading comprehension exam my son took last week. My son was not happy with the exam and one example he gave me was about a passage that talked about a rusty old classroom that had student desks full of graffiti that looked like hieroglyphics. One question asked what this meant and the three choices my son remembered were (a) The room has not been cleaned often; (b) The room has been vandalized; and (c) The room has a rich culture. There was a fourth choice but my son could not remember it. The correct answer apparently was (c). This exam apparently came from the county. Exams or assessments are important tools for these can help guide both students and teachers. Unfortunately, this question's role in informing teachers and students is questionable. A poor assessment is not only a waste of time, but can also lead to frustration and misinformation.

A good assessment should help teachers see if they are teaching what they are supposed to be teaching. It should aid students in evaluating whether they are learning something. Multiple choice questions are frequently employed because these are easily standardized, but great care must be taken when constructing such questions. By their very nature, it is easy to write multiple choice questions that can measure basic skills or knowledge. It is, however, very difficult, if not impossible to use multiple choice questions to assess mastery. For these reasons, multiple choice questions are often reliable in spotting deficiencies. And for the same reasons, these exams often perform miserably in measuring excellence. Based on that one question my son shared with me, I could guess that like my son, his classmates likewise probably did not perform well in this exam. An assessment where most students would fail is a perfect example of a useless assessment. It does not inform. It only shows what students do not know. With this specific question, it actually tells us that students do not normally think that graffiti is an example of culture. I think every student is actually taught that graffiti especially on school property is vandalism.

There is a useful article by Rachel Outhred posted in the World Education Blog entitled "Poor Quality Learning Assessments Are Crumbling Under the Weight of the Decisions They Inform". The title itself provides us with a very useful tool in gauging whether an assessment is good or bad. What decision can we make if our students cannot equate graffiti with culture? Is there a decision to be made or did we just waste precious time inside our classrooms and made students feel bad about themselves?

Above copied from
World Education Blog

Schools cannot take student learning seriously if school districts do not.