03 October 2014

Let's Change the Test Scores Conversation

State test scores were released to the public today in Kentucky, and I can already hear rumblings. Our scores dropped, we didn't meet our goals, what are we going to do? More test prep! NO. Please. NO. We have schools full of unengaged and bored children and teens who don't even want to attend school. More skill and drill and continuous test prep will surely make them dread school even more. Plus, really, has it worked for you thus far? Have constant test prep, worksheets, overloads of boring homework improved learning and test scores. Doubtful that it has.

In the two hours since the scores have been released publicly, I have had at least a half-dozen friends who are educators contact me, I guess because they know I generally speak out about test scores, test prep, and my desire for a new way of thinking about test scores. I've blogged about it numerous times, and each time I say the same general thing in a different way.

Let's change the conversation
This morning, instead of thinking about the examples where we don't have it right, let's look again at some hopeful examples of teachers, schools, and systems who are focusing on engaged student learning based on the interests of students and based on the needs of the whole child.

Take Eminence High School for example, they do not focus on test prep at their school. Instead, they focus on engaging students and connecting them with their community. Read about this class that has plans to change the world using Project Based Learning.

In this post "I remember that worksheet said no student ever!" we also have the story of Shelly, a teacher in Woodford County, Kentucky. Shelly engages her students by empowering them. "Students are empowered as they become experts who communicate and share their ideas with an audience.  They are inventors and artists creating products for the future and dreaming of endless possibilities."

There's also Andrea, an elementary teacher who engages her students by having them explore historical artifacts. You see, it is possible to teach the required standards and meet the demands of the state assessments in interesting and engaging ways.

In Danville schools, a whole system is pushing back on the test prep ways and moving beyond dependence on traditional tests as they explore more performance based assessments for students to demonstrate learning.

Tricia Shelton and Patrick Goff, two Kentucky science teachers, are challenging each other and collaborating to ensure more collaborative and engaged science learning. Patrick shares his reflections on interactive learning including problem based learning on his blog.

Another one of my favorite Kentucky stories is a group of teachers in Louisville who teach a food literacy class. Here's another fine example of learning that doesn't involve test prep, and the teachers are finding great results.

My challenge to everyone today and throughout the year is for us to continuing sharing these bright spots. Instead of focusing on test prep and all the negatives associated with test score release, let's share positive examples that move well beyond skill and drill. Let's share examples of students engaged in genuine learning, examples of kids who want to go to school because they know they will enjoy it, examples of teachers doing what they do best--getting students excited about learning.

I know there are many many more. Will you join me in changing the conversation? Please post links to positive examples below in the comments. Thanks!