I'll spare you the details of my day looking for trends and information from student test scores.
I missed my kiddos a lot today. They are hitting their stride in research. They have awesome questions. Many of them are working with sources and thinking through ideas. I didn't want to miss it.
What I received instead was an important thinking opportunity. As a member of our building leadership team, I had access to five year trends for all student standardized test scores. Never, never, would I say that our statewide assessment is the best way to tell how well our students read. But it would be ridiculous for me to completely ignore it as one measure of data--particularly when I'm looking at individual students' trends over time.
I spent a little bit of time looking at the students who I had last year. We test in October, so that's the most appropriate place for me to look in order to analyze instruction. It was pretty interesting. Most of my students stayed pretty much the same, had a 10-15 point jump, or had a 10-15 point decline. I'm pretty disappointed that so many of my students had such a significant dip. Those kids were still "proficient" according to No Child Left Behind, but it still doesn't sit well with me.
The thing is, I spend a lot of time on independent reading in my class. It looks like it may provide great gains for kids who are borderline proficient or on the lower end because they are spending more time reading than they have before. I wonder, though, if I didn't nudge my students who already were pretty strong readers to choose independent reading material that really challenged them.
I had already set helping students choose better reading material as an important goal for next year's independent reading, but these results help me think about how to do it right now, to offer the greatest benefit to my current students. The beauty is that if I tell my kids the rationale (to make sure you are becoming a better reader, not test taker), and give them a few strategies to apply to choose appropriate books, it will help most of them. They want to be better readers.
Something I love about teaching is the autonomy. I see a problem: I try to find a solution. This is a gift of my profession, and one that is imperative we hang on to if we are to continue reaching students.