We are obsessed with judging teacher quality by measuring student achievement. To make it even more complex we are measuring student achievement by a brand new yardstick, the Common Core State Standards.
Parents, educators and the New York State governor are confused, two-thirds of students scored “below proficient” on the latest tests, which the State Education Department now defines as “approaching proficiency.” (smile) and half of all teachers scored “highly effective” and less than 1% scored “ineffective” on the extremely complex APPR teacher evaluation metric.
The governor asks: if two-thirds of kids are failing state tests how can teachers score so highly on the teacher evaluation tool? How can principals give teachers high grades on the 60% lesson assessment section of the teacher evaluation tool when so many kids doing so poorly on the tests?
Unfortunately we are using the wrong tools to measure the wrong outcomes.
We base a range of decisions on a test, a few hours of bubbling in answers and writing an essay; however the SAT and the ACT, which also use bubble sheets and essays, are poor predictors of college success. The best predictor is standing in class as measured by the student’s GPA. It should not be surprising; the GPA is determined by numerous tests over four years of high school reflecting the judgment of many teachers.
The largest study of students at colleges that do not require SAT or ACT scores has found that there is “virtually no difference” in the academic performance (measured in grades or graduation rates) of those who do and don’t submit scores.
The study — involving 123,000 students at 33 colleges and universities of varying types — found that high school grades do predict student success. And this extends to those who do better or worse than expected on standardized exams. So those students with low high school grades but high test scores generally receive low college grades, while those with high grades in high school, but low test scores, generally receive high grades in college.
This is not an isolated example of research, in 2005 a study explains,
… researchers examined differences in the predictive strength of high school grades and standardized test scores for student involvement, academic achievement, retention, and satisfaction. Findings indicate that high school grades are stronger predictors of success than standardized test scores for both racial and religious minority students.
In another study the Council for Aid to Education and NYU supports the finding of the research supra
In spite of the evidence that the SAT does not achieve its purposes the folks at the College Board are rolling out a new exam in the spring of 2016, a test that reflects the Common Core standard competencies; at the same time more and more colleges are abandoning the SAT.
If tests, be it the SAT or Pearson-produced Grade 3-8 state tests or the PARCC exams are not accurate predictors of college success, or, teacher competence, how should we assess teacher performance and student achievement?
The answer may be in a Gates-funded study, Academic Tenacity: Mindsets and Skills that Promote Long Term Learning, (Carole Dweck and others, Stanford University). The introduction is exceptionally important,
In a nationwide survey of high school dropouts, 69% said that school had not motivated or inspired them to work hard. In fact, many of the students who remain in school are not motivated or inspired either, and the more time students spend in K-12 education the worse it gets. What prevents students from working hard in school? Is it something about them, or it something about school? Is there a solution to this problem?
Most education reform focuses on curriculum and pedagogy – what material is taught and how is it taught? However, curriculum and pedagogy have often been narrowly defined as the academic content and students’ intellectual processing of that material. Research shows that this is insufficient. In our pursuit of education reform, something has been missing: the psychology of the student. Psychological factors, often called motivational or non-cognitive factors – can matter even more than cognitive factors for student academic performance …
Academic tenacity is about the mindsets and skills that allow students to:
* Look beyond short-term concerns to higher order goals, and
* Withstand challenges to setbacks to persevere towards these goals.
Dweck and her co-authors make it clear, it’s not the “right” curriculum or the “right” pedagogy, there are many paths to the same ends, the “solution” is not the Common Core, the “solution” is not in the Charlotte Danielson frameworks, without a teaching/learning environment that supports Academic Tenacity too many students, too many high poverty students and student of color will be left behind.
The authors specifically define “key characteristics and behaviors” that can be defined and taught,
Key Characteristics and Behaviors of Academically Tenacious Students
* Belong academically and socially
* See school as relevant to their future
* Work hard and postpone immediate pleasures
* Not derailed by intellectual and social difficulties
* Seek out challenges
* Remain engaged over the long haul
Scientific American affirms the research findings and links to a range of research findings (Check out here)
For academic achievement, ability is not enough. What’s also needed are mindsets and strategies for overcoming obstacles, staying on task, and learning and growing over the long-term … academic tenacity is not about being smart, but learning smart.
I was visiting a middle school in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city, a neighborhood at the top of the list of handgun violence and homicides. As I walked toward the office a student “introduced” himself, “My name is xx, can I help you?” Each classroom displayed the banner from a college and the advisory rooms had names, the name of a college. No one was yelling at kids, a student was talking loudly and a teacher simply put his find to his lips. The school leader took me into a classroom, and asked, “”What are we learning today?” The kids all raised their hands, anxious to tell me all about the lesson.
The middle school downstairs was chaos.
Danielson frameworks are a guide and set a standard; however, students in screened schools or schools with more middle class students are far more likely to reach the “highly effective” category, as evidenced by the teacher grades on the APPR, the state teacher evaluation metric.
Challenging content, rigorous curriculum and pedagogy combined with the teaching skills that promote academic tenacity is the path to creating successful schools and college and/or career ready students.
Are schools of education and school-based professional development emphasizing the teaching of Academic Tenacity? I fear not. Hopefully research will trump the current faulty teaching and learning trends.