In my experience as a math teacher for 15 years at Basalt Middle School, I have taught many different students and can probably tell you 42 different ways that someone might use the Pythagorean theorem. I can also tell you that parents who are involved in their students’ education and have high expectations for learning have students who are most successful. Parents who help their students access resources, structure their time after school and communicate with teachers regularly are giving their kids the support they need to meet today’s high standards.
However, it is not the time to opt out of high standards nor is it time to confuse high standards with testing debates. We need to opt in to high standards. As professional educators, we are tasked with preparing students for competitive college programs, admissions and careers with 21st century skills. Of the 20 fastest growing careers, 15 require a background in math and science. No one would argue that we want to lower the bar for our kids and the current Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers test is but one way for us to see if we are helping our kids reach their goals.
How do we measure if our students are on track to reach their goals? In my classroom, we look at tests and quizzes and projects that we have developed as teachers. Teachers look at metrics of character such as perseverance, enthusiasm and teamwork. However, we also need to let our work be judged in part based on state and national standards, and that has to include some state and national testing. To pretend that the world is not becoming more data-driven is short sighted. We should not, do not and have not judged a student’s performance, potential or intelligence based on one test score. Unfortunately, we are often are judged as educators in the public eye by this one test score as opposed to our body of work.
One of the skills that we want all middle school students to have moving forward is the ability to make a rational argument based on facts, data and logic. During one week of PARCC testing, my students will have missed
only one class period. Not one has opted out. We have continued to teach good-quality lessons and did not spend any extra time “teaching to the test.” Anecdotally, most students felt low stress and were well-prepared and understood that this is just one piece of their educational profile.
We did not spend hours sharpening No. 2 pencils and practice making bubbles nice and dark.
Of course, the test is not perfect, and there are hurdles to overcome and fine-tuning to be made. We would love for the public face of all of our performance be more than a simple percentage. We can’t say measuring an
angle with a little, yellow, cut-out protractor was any better or some 100-question SRA test from 30 years ago. How about the 1912 Bullit County exam (www.bullittcountyhistory.com/bchistory/schoolexam1912.html)?
However, in my opinion, we would be better served moving past grammar on a specific question and uniting behind ways to support our kids to achieve great things through high standards. This is what the highest-achieving countries in the world have done, and we should, as well. Lets opt in and work to achieve the higher standards.
By: Craig Macek, Basalt Middle School math teacher
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