Testing a snap shot of student progress

by Ed Saxton

Recently, my father said to me, “This is the best May we have ever had in March.” He is right. Even if the weather is a tad bit odd, the calendar is accurate. Our students have transitioned into the third and final trimester of the 2011-12 school year, and together we will navigate the testing season.

Ed Saxton
Ed Saxton

Why is this time of the year important to our community? There are as many answers to this question as there are people to ask. From an instructional angle, knowing how well students perform on standardized tests is important to gauge practices that have been implemented by our teachers.

Similarly, many students see testing as a reflection on their efforts as learners. Months of preparation culminate in a single snap shot of performance on that particular day, in that particular subject. Designed to be standardized, a test should reflect the depth of knowledge a student has acquired during the year of learning. In many cases, it does and all involved feel successful.

Conversely, students may see testing as a necessary, but somewhat uncomfortable, measure of achievement. Some may have had a collection of less than pleasant experiences with testing. They will do their best but are less enthusiastic about the need for testing.

Parents have long had an interest in achievement and see testing as one measure. With this in mind, there are several things parents can do to help students do their very best on these tests.

First, parents can encourage students to get enough sleep on a consistent basis prior to the testing. This practice allows students to be ready to do well on the test during the regular school day. In addition to sleep, students who are fed breakfast have an edge from a nutritional perspective. These practices have the potential of yielding improved results for our students.

As a learning community, we see value in summative testing, to a degree, but also understand that formative assessment brings greater value for immediate adjustments. So what does this mean? It means summative assessment occurs at the end of the educational segment in order to keep score. On the other hand, formative assessment is incremental and ongoing to guide instruction on a day to day basis.

Understanding testing is important for our educational community, but understanding the need to assist our students is equally important to our parental community. Regardless of a person’s role in student achievement, it is important to support the desire to increase achievement scores.

The state wants to record scores and compare schools to other schools. Even though that may be appropriate for their purposes, our desire is to help students learn as much as they can while they are in our system. We believe in students and have a keen desire to see them succeed at an accelerated rate. We believe in students, we desire a partnership with families and we are willing to work diligently to make this combination work well.

With all that said, I believe my father’s observation in regard to the weather was accurate. However, in terms of testing, he may have missed the mark. Student achievement will always be the center of the focus of our staff and our district. It is not the weather that tells a story, it is the advocacy of parents and the dedication of our students and staff that will chart the course we are about to follow. Thanks to all parents in all districts who choose to support students in a positive fashion.

I heard it might rain tomorrow. Snow what.

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