“Raise Test Scores” is a Turn Off

Imagine you had a first date with someone. Immediately (s)he started talking about marrying you, y’all’s kids, even grand kids. No matter what happened after that part of the date you probably wouldn’t be able to get past that beginning conversation unless that was what you wanted too. When something begins and everyone involved has different goals it becomes unenjoyable.

Last Friday (and will happen again on Tuesday) 800 math and special ed teachers were in my school going through AMSTI (Alabama Math Science Tech Initiative). I wasn’t taking part of the training but after checking all the rooms and fixing the tech problems that magically appeared over night (or could be because they came in and unplugged everything) I got a feel for what the classes would be about. I saw a lot of manipulatives and chart paper. It was easy to see that the focus would be on teaching and learning strategies.

During the day I got a text from a friend who was in the sessions saying if they say the phrase “raise test scores” one more time she was going to be sick. As the day went on that was a huge complaint from people I talked to, that this was all about test scores. One even said, “just give me your big binders, transparencies (yes they gave out transparencies!!), and let me go home” and when I asked her why she said she was hoping for lesson ideas that did not focus on test scores.

Two weeks ago I had to go to SIOP training. This is a training that focuses on methods for teaching ELLs. Really what it came down to was using best teaching methods that reach all students. The sessions (3 days worth) were boring due to fact it was canned PPT and workbooks but I learned a lot because the instructor always came back to the reason WHY we were learning this. It always focused on student learning, a lot of focus on Blooms and getting kids beyond just understanding and answering questions on a test.

You see the difference in the two PD? The WHY. I know that AMSTI has great ideas and really does teach good learning strategies and according to teachers attending the AMSTI trainings, when they return tomorrow they will be finally focusing on the “how” not the “why.” BUT no matter how great the learning practices are if the reason behind does not align with our goals as teachers it is not effective. (FYI Most teacher’s goals are not to have students pass the test, just in case you were unaware.)

You know when we first started teaching it was drilled into our head that lessons had to relate to the kids and have real-world application, the same applies here. When teaching teachers you still need keep that focus. Teacher’s #1 goals are not raising standardized test scores, well at least GOOD teachers do not have that goal. Stop making that always the focus.

As teachers we are bad about learning these strategies and tucking them away in the back of our mind then pull them out during walk-throughs because we know they are on the check list. If we realize that these methods really do promote student learning and use them we will see results. We have to push past that “improve scores, everyone needs to pass” mindset and realize that there are good methods being taught, it is the delivery of “why” that bums us out. You keep your focus, the kids, and the rest will work itself out. Don’t get discourage by it.

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