Perspective is the most important thing to have in life.
We live in an information-rich, data-driven age. The use of data has seeped into everything we do. If we think about it, there are very few decisions we make without first checking with our social network or comparing facts on the internet. We are able to quickly research our choices on everything from where we buy a car to where we take out the loan for the car. We can even get up-to-the-minute news, weather, and financial information delivered directly to our wrist on our smart watches.
While having on-demand access to data has, in many ways, made our lives better, it is also important to keep this availability of data in perspective. We need to look at these data from multiple viewpoints and make informed decisions based on our values and beliefs. We need to be cautious not to put all of our eggs in the data basket, but also to trust our experience and values.
With that said, on Wednesday the state will release the scores for the PARCC test that was given to Illinois’ students last spring. I have been in education long enough to know exactly how this will play out. Scores will be printed in the newspapers, which will then declare the “winners” and “losers” of the standardized test. Politicians will make grand statements about the state of education and either laud or demonize the assessment. Principals and teachers will get phone calls and emails from parents asking them to explain the results and what they mean for their child. Finally (and most unfortunate), schools will be compared and decisions will be made based on these results.
The PARCC, as with any standardized test, is just a snapshot of a school and its students. In order to get a full picture of a school’s effectiveness, we need to take a deeper look within the school. Simply scratching the surface via one standardized test won’t allow anyone to see the wonderful things happening at that school.
One important area to consider is the culture and climate of the school. Do students and families feel welcome at school? Is there a connection and a willingness for staff to work with families? Do students experience connections with adults via athletics, arts, clubs, and leadership opportunities? All of these help enrich students’ lives during school and beyond, but are not assessed by any standardized test.
Another indicator of of a school’s success is how academics are approached. Does the curriculum challenge students to think in new and different ways? Do teachers individualize and support students’ unique learning styles? Is the staff professional, do they seek out new ways to deliver instruction?
One other aspect that makes schools great is the level of service that is provided by the school to the students and community. Here we ask, what are parents and students saying about our schools? Does the school make adjustments in order to meet the needs of students and families? Does the school seek out new ways to serve students?
No one knows yet what the results of the PARCC test will be for Pleasantdale; however, I know that we will spend time looking at the results and analyzing them in the context of the larger picture. Over the course of the year, we will be creating “Beyond Measures,” which will help our community to look past simple test scores and see our school from multiple perspectives. Beyond Measures will include satisfaction data, perception data, and ways that we connect with students beyond the classroom. You can expect to learn more about Beyond Measures in the coming weeks and months.
The PARCC scores will come and go, but our district will remain strong because of the teachers and families involved in making it great.