Dear APA Family,
The DOE has released our ISTEP scores for the past school year as you may have seen in the newspaper or recently in the meeting. I am proud of our APA teachers and students for all of the progress they have made regardless of what these test scores may indicate. These scores are in no way, shape or form a reflection of the excellence that is being achieved in our classrooms each day and the tremendous individual growth made by our students; however, they do they reflect the challenges that come from losing months of instruction due to testing. Our students lose at least ten full days of instruction just for test administration. This has to stop.
I strongly believe that the inability of the DOE to properly communicate, to provide resources and guidance, and to deliver a quality test should not reflect poorly on schools, teachers or students. Great things are happening at APA and schools across our community and state, and many other data points show that students are progressing and flourishing statewide; however, the only test that “matters” for accountability purposes does not reflect this. This should be a huge red flag to our DOE, State Board, and legislators that something is terribly wrong with the test, not our schools or teachers. Using a test that assumes students have had years to master the new state standards when the testing situation and standard situation has been in turmoil for the past few years is a poor representation of the great work that students and teachers are doing throughout the state. The test creation process was rushed when best practice dictates that it takes several years to develop a strong and accurate assessment that truly measures the individual growth and mastery of standards for each student. If you look at how 10th grade students performed on the traditional ECA for the 2015-2016 school year in comparison to the ISTEP 10, you can see a HUGE discrepancy. For APA, there is an average difference of 30% for both Eng. 10 and Alg I vs. ISTEP 10. While this is extremely beneficial for our students as their scores on ECA reflect years of quality instruction and the ECA counts as their graduation exam, schools will be held accountable for the ISTEP 10 results. Teachers did NOT have access to resources for this for months and the guidance from the DOE was abysmal.
Until our DOE develops a test that truly focuses on each individual student and measures them in a holistic view with an emphasis on growth, our schools, teachers, and students will suffer with the stigma of inaccurate reflections of the wonderful work that is done in the classroom every day. Better resources must be provided, a better test must be created, and better communication must come from the DOE. Politics need to be removed from the process and the focus needs to go back to the intent of accountability and ISTEP which is making sure that each student in the state is progressing and having their individual needs identified and met. Simply put, I believe education is about kids, not politics, and our DOE pulled their focus away from that many, many years ago.
I fully support accountability as charter schools are held to additional levels of accountability; however, statewide, traditional public schools, charter schools, private schools, teachers, and most importantly, students are being punished due the ineffectiveness of our current accountability system and one very poorly created test. If any entity should be held accountable for the scores statewide, it should be our Department of Education. Many parties share in the responsibility for this, and many people will want to point fingers at individuals, but that will not solve the problem. All parties need to come together to work together and get education back to being about kids. If this doesn’t happen, we will continue to lose good teachers to other industries and students will fall further behind.
It is my hope that the DOE and our state legislators will listen to educators and get us back to the where teachers can teach without the fear of one test hanging over their heads and students can learn without hiding in bathrooms when it’s time to test. Learning is about growth, not failure to meet one measurement. Einstein has a great quote about measuring fish by their ability to climb trees which has been included with this post and that’s exactly what our national educational culture is right now.
APA will continue to stay committed to teaching each student at their individual level, bridging the gap, and celebrating the whole child as our students continue to grow and flourish as they learn beyond the standards measured by ISTEP and the state standards.