It's pretty rare that I come away from a professional development session where I can say that I feel energized and fired up, genuinely, to start a new school year.
That is exactly what happened yesterday. On August 1st, the leadership cohort in my school and I met to plan the PD that we gave yesterday. It was all about data and how to look at it from a different perspective in order to help our students grow and truly reach their potential.
We have used NWEA/MAP for about 8 years I think. I know some people aren't a fan of it, but I like it because it gives me immediate results that I can use to help design instruction for my students. I also like it because the learning continuum (used to be called DesCartes) provides me with invaluable information about where they are, where they should be and what I need to do in order to get them from A to B.
We have always looked at student growth from fall to spring. This makes sense, doesn't it? That's the time that the child is with you. But consider something. How many students in a low-income urban district such as my own have so-called "summer slide"? Truthfully, a lot of them do. In fact, I asked two of my former students (brothers) at registration how many books they read this summer. They said none like it was no big deal. Grrr.
Alas, this is part of the problem. We more or less have let them get away with that summer slide. Not anymore. What we did was look at their SPRING data. When school starts next week, we are going to hold them to those spring scores. We want their growth to be determined from Spring to Spring because if the score is higher from the spring compared to the fall, we know they are capable of getting back to that spring score because they already did it once.
As a staff, we ran through some research, did some discussion and then jumped into actually looking at our data. We made data boards and looked at trends across the grades. It's difficult because the higher the grade, the more kiddos are in the "pink zone" (ie not where we want them). So our task is to hold the kiddos to those standards--you did this once, I want to see you do it again. Focus on a growth mindset, perseverance and a can-do attitude and help THEM to push THEMSELVES toward higher achievement.
I'm telling you...when we reflected at the end of the meeting, our new principal had everyone go around and share takeaways. You could have cut that energy with a knife; it was palpable (but in the best possible way). People left feeling fired up, empowered and ready to move forward to better our kids.
That's what it is supposed to be about. No, test scores are not the end all, be all, but they are part of our evaluation and therefore we have to consider them and do what we can to help our kids be better.