Pass the Right Test: Measuring Student Development
June 16, 2021
There’s an old cliché in business that “what gets measured gets managed.” That reality is largely to blame for our overemphasis on standardized test data. It’s easy to measure, so it ends up receiving the lion’s share of administrative and state attention. It’s counterproductive, however, to ignore things of value that are more difficult to quantify.
I love data and think it can be used wisely and well. But in order to resist the impulse to overemphasize standardized assessments, it might be helpful to start tracking matters of deeper import. This summer, reflect on different ways you can measure what matters; not only will it help you focus your energy on the most essential things, it will help you realize the power of the work that you do. Here are a few suggestions.
Do your students love to learn? More than any specific piece of content knowledge, this reality will largely shape their destiny — both in school and in life. So ask them about it! Give monthly check-ins to ask how students are enjoying different facets of your class.
Sure, learning isn’t always going to be fun. Sometimes, you’ll do great work through activities that students feel are difficult — even a little painful. But that should be the exception, and not the rule — and if you’re working hard to help them find value in difficult work, you’ll still see great results in your student survey data. If you’re not doing it already, give student surveys a shot; you’ll be amazed at how it focuses your energies on making school memorable, meaningful, and fun!
Every day, students are making discoveries and learning new things. Sometimes, that learning gets measured on a state assessment; often, it doesn’t. To help your students understand the incredible range of important discoveries they can make, have them track every time they discover something that fascinates them. Have them write it on a card, or slip a Discovery Token into a box.
Monitor how many discoveries your students make each month, and challenge them to surpass their previous totals. It’s an incredible way to help cultivate student ownership and a sense of curiosity in your class.
What’s school for? Eventually, we hope that school helps our students to make the world a better place — after all, it certainly beats the alternative.
But often, the idea of changing the world feels very distant; we hope that students have an impact years and years down the road. That distance mutes the message. We need to amplify the importance of impact by helping our students improve their schools, their communities, and the world… today.
So dive in! Help your students to share their learning with others, to raise money for an important cause, or to form connections with people who might need a friend. Track that impact, and share your metrics with your students, your school, and your community. Making the world a better place, right here and right now, is the best kind of test your class can pass.
*Today’s image is brought to you by How to Get Your Teacher Ready by Jean Reagan and Lee Wildish