Tuesday, April 28, 2009
How Do You Measure Your Effectiveness
It's that time of year again. The final push in the marathon school year that ends with North Carolina's End of Grade Tests. I always have a mood change when the stress of the daily grind takes over at this time of year. I asked myself, "Why am I feeling this way?" I have some ideas.
This mood hit full force this morning on the way to work when I realized that most of my Wednesday afternoon would be reserved for test administrator training. That's usually a 2-hour or so ordeal where we go over things like the Testing Code of Ethics (again - and yes it's important), and dissect the test administrator's manual. Highlighters whiz across pages at breakneck speed and we all pay special attention to all the warnings and directions about how to administer these assessments reliably and ethically.
I fully understand assessment is necessary, and accountability is ultimately a good thing. Every business has it, and education needs it too. It's just that I have an issue with what our method really tells us at the end of the year.
This morning I was helping third grade students take multiple choice test items using ClassScape. Teachers can pull test items by state goal and create assessments that return detailed data about what students answered correctly and incorrectly. It's a powerful tool that lets us as educators know how our students are doing and what we need to review and reteach. It's basically an EOG test on the computer. Usually, when our students come to the lab I see a little excitement in their eyes and motivated pupils who know we're going to do something creative and "cool." Today, the reaction was just the opposite. That reaction was powerful too.
I can't answer for for anyone except myself, but I know I got into education because I wanted to make a difference. I know that's cliche', but it's accurate. I believe most good educators got into the business for this reason as well. But what does that look like? How do we define and assess the difference we made at the student level like we attempt to using standardized test scores?
The fact is - I don't think we do, and that leaves me with an empty feeling.
At the end of the year all we are left with are rosters with scaled scores, percentages, breakdowns, and roman numerals. That doesn't tell me enough about my effectiveness as an educator.
I'd like to know that I helped develop more than a good test taker, but helped develop the whole child. I'd like to be able to look at my rosters and say, I helped motivate a child when there was little motivation. I'd like to know I taught students successfully to understand and accept classmates that were different with different opinions. I'd like to know if what I taught was clearly conveyed as necessary for successful living. That list goes on, but you get the point.
I want to try something different with our students using our teaching blog at the end of this year by allowing them to reflect on their school year and see what they can convey about what they have learned. I'm still working on the prompt, but at least I will have an assessment of sorts that is bigger than any scaled score. The responses will be valuable because the students will define the assessment by reflecting on what was significant to them. It won't be constricted to an A,B,C, D answer on a bubble sheet. I don't think students reflect enough, and that is a valuable lifelong skill to master. Of that I am sure.
Help me, if you will, shape this prompt. How do we as educators measure our authentic effectiveness?