Last year the Department advertised Empowerment as meaning that principals would be freed of the “oppression of the bureaucracy,” not quite. Three initiatives were non-negotiable: the School Progress Report, Interim Assessments and the Inquiry Team.
School Progress Reports are the “average pupil growth” metric that will be translated into a numerical score and a letter grade. The formula has been “massaged” all year and currently is based upon standardized test scores (credit accumulation and Regents scores in high schools), the School Quality Review, improvement in attendance, school safety and parent and teacher surveys. The weighting of these metrics and the application of statistical adjustments results in that “A” to “F” grade.
The Inquiry Team is a school-based action research project lead by the principal. The Team “investigates” a group of low performing students – the Department provides per session, guidelines and professional supports and the results are envisioned to be shared with the school staff.
The third Empowerment initiative was the Interim Assessments. Four or five times a year a “no stakes” diagnostic test was administered to all students. Last year the Department contracted with companies and used “off the shelf” tools that schools felt were mediocre at best.
This year, no matter which School Support Organization (SSO), the three initiatives will be imbedded in each and every school.
The Department actually listened to the criticism of schools and changed the Interim Assessment: they contracted with McGraw Hill who produced a web-based diagnostic tool.
Mc Graw Hill has been “rolling it out” around the City and the audiences have been applauding.
The assessment tool will enable teachers to disaggregate the results of the diagnostic tool any way they choose.
Envision a reading passage with multiple choice answers: the question asks the student to identify the “main idea” and gives four choices.
The students can take the exam online or on a Scan-able form.
With a few mouse clicks the teacher can find out
- how many student chose each answer and the names of the students
- disaggregate the students by NCLB category
- disaggregate the data by NYS Standards.
- produce reports in any format they choose
The teacher can use the Standard test by grade level, customize the test or actually add teacher designed items.
Mc Graw Hill will place servers around the City and will maintain the website.
The Department deserves accolades: a useful tool that embodies 21st century technology.
While a web-based diagnostic tool will be useful to teachers, diagnostic tools are not new. Twenty years ago I watched a
School District spend mega-dollars on a diagnostic tool that was administered to all students in April. The following September teachers received a loose leaf binder with prescriptions for each and every student in their class.
The binders gathered dust.
Newer teachers used the prescriptions early in the year while experienced teachers ignored them.
An excellent teacher responded, “I know why Joey can’t read … tell me what is going to work … how I get him to concentrate? How do I get him to read at home? How do I get his parents involved? How do I get him to turn off the TV?” And, on and on.
The diagnostic tool must be part of a collaborative team of practionners.
Effective practice is characterized by a Principal that leads by example, who works as a member of a team that explores practice and creates a synergy. User friendly diagnostic tools are welcome: more welcome is a school climate that trusts and treasures teacher.