We will always find what we look for.
How can you not applaud the efforts of a school which looks at how students are doing and puts specific actions into place to help students? This RTI school has done just that. Who wouldn’t suppose that as they focus more clearly on specific measures they will improve students performance on those measures?
“…all our professional development for the entire first semester is planned using the end of year summative data.”
Now some may argue that this is teaching to the test, and they are correct. That is exactly what this is and it makes sense. Whoa! Did I just say that? Of course. Really, if you want to get better at something, identify what to get better at, measure it and plan accordingly. RTI or any other data-based decision making is not difficult it is just focused.
Lest you think I jumped ship, wait…
At some point a school needs to decide what is important and how to measure that. And it is this step I would argue lacks follow through. After all, no school or district mission statement reads “It is the sole mission of our school for children to be proficient at all state measures.” Faced with urgent need for change the question of what a school (and therefore community) should value often becomes framed within a predefined context of measurement, biasing the conversation from the word go and leaving other things aside. And let’s face it, some things are very hard to measure.
Are reading, writing and math skills important to a school? Absolutely. Science and Social Studies too? Of course. There are many available ways to get and analyze data about skills and content knowledge in these areas. These measures and tools are not difficult. But what isn’t being measured is difficult. Are any RTI schools targeting creativity and innovation? What measures are used to assess student’s connections to content? What tools have been developed to assess students thinking processes to solve a problem and do (would) these tools allow for varied approaches across a variety of problems? What is the spectrum of development of a self-directed learner and how do we measure that? This is just the short-list. (who noticed that I never even mentioned art, comprehensive technology, health, PE… ?)
There are arguments and data to suggest that the narrow focus on core subject skills does not negatively impact achievement in other subject areas. Does this suggest that it is ok to focus so narrowly on math, reading and writing skills? (is no negative impact what you want for your child?). What isn’t being measured?
A recent article suggests that children’s cognitive development is strongly influenced by the valued cognitive skills of their culture. We are certainly measuring important things already. But do the things we exclude weigh equally on our values?
Here is one