Feeling like a failure…is it valid?

My district uses NWEA MAP scores to measure student growth. Our students take the test in the fall, are give a target to reach when they take the spring test. We have been using the Math and Reading tests for the past 3 years and this year we added the general science test. This week my classes took thescience test. We missed the growth target! One of my student growth data points will not be rated as effective. For me to have gotten effective 60% or more of my students needed to hit their growth target as projected by NWEA. We missed. I feel I have failed my class.

Or at least I did until:

A student took the 45 question test in 10 minutes and saw their test score jump 13 points!! Wait, What? I can’t read 45 questions in 10 minutes, That is answering a question about every 13 seconds is that possible with any accuracy? Yes, I know this student met their target, but it makes me question the validity of the test for every student. If someone can score higher by chance, can’t they also score lower? Should their be a way to make sure students actually read the test? Or is that one me monitoring 30+ students? (In fact this student tested 1 on 1 with another teacher because they we absent when the test was given) The fact is this student growth is reflected in MY teacher evaluation, it leaves me with a few questions.

 

1. Where do the growth targets come from? Not all students grow at the same rate so how in the world can NWEA project these targets? I have been told that they are calculated as the average growth for everyone that scores the same RIT score. IF so then 50% of ALL students will fall above and 50% will fall below as a law of averages.

2. What standards is the NWEA test based upon? I assume common core for ELA and Math, is it Next Gen for science? Surely not the Michigan 7th grade science standards that I am required to teach.

3. If students are above grade level, is it expected for them to grow? Teachers teach a grade level content standard, how can students grow in areas that are not taught as defined by curriculum? I know teachers need to offer enrichment opportunities in class but the dig deeper into curriculum not into high level curriculum that the NWEA test measures.

4. Do multiple choice test really measure knowledge? I often call them multiple guess tests. Most of my student love multiple choice because they can take a guess. They hate fill in the blank and short answer questions because that requires them to have the knowledge. I find it funny that a student who takes 30 minutes to try and unsuccessful complete a short answer test is done in 30 seconds with a similar multiple choice one! The new assessment for the common core are placing an emphasis on more open ended questions so why not NWEA?

5. Do these test scores correlate to content mastery? Is there evidence that doing will on MAP tests means students DO know the content knowledge?

I know these are changing times. Teachers are responsible for making sure our students grow. I KNOW every single student in my class grew in many different ways this year. I have their classwork to prove it. I hope the laws will be fixed so teachers like me don’t feel like FAILURES.

I will continue to strive to be the best teacher I can. I don’t want to resort to teaching to the NWEA (or any test) just to keep my job, I personally feel that would be educational malpractice.

How do kids grow?

Student growth

All of the so-called education reformers want teachers evaluations based upon student growth. Many of them have lobbied statehouses to enact laws mandating a growth model in evaluations before really thinking about how we measure “educational” growth.  Politician see poor academic achievement on standardized tests and begin to blame the educational system. These test scores are an easy tool to look at and see that the American Educational system needs work when compared to other nations. But do the test measure student growth? And can this growth be attributed to individual teachers? Probably not!!

The fact is all student grow at different academic rates based on numerous factors:

  1. Genetics
  2. Parental Nurturing- Exposure to reading, writing and other educational opportunities at a young age.
  3. Environmental Nurturing – In a rich educational environment all day long: NO TV babysitters
  4. Educational Values at home
  5. Teaching

I am sure that their are more. We can’t just take a standardized test score and use it to show growth attributed to teaching.  So of the score might be due to teaching, the rest to this other factors.

The other major flaw in this measurement of growth plan is the assumption that all students grow in a linear manner at a same rate. Using this assumption then: all students show walk and talk at the same time. Students should all be potty trained at the same time. We could also assume all students would be same height and weight.   Every American know this all not to be true. So why are we assuming all students can the same material at the same rate? This is ludicrous!!!

Growth is really similar to this chart below:

Patrh to succes

Students all start and hopefully end at the same place in their educational journey but all of their paths are unique and individual. Some students need more time than others. Some will go every which way but the direction desired until the right intervention is put in place. Our educational systems goal is to get to success no matter where the journey takes us. Our goal is NOT to have every student take the same journey to success.  If it was our world would be quite a boring place. Hopefully politicians will see the error in their ways. New measurements will be put into place. Then teachers won’t feel like they have targets on their backs. Let make sure we look at the journey instead of focusing on the end results. The educational journey is what makes us all unique.