Friday, August 17, 2007

The Long View

Test scores have arrived and all the king's horses and all the king's men are scurrying about districts across the state trying to either fix their deficiencies or figure out what they actually did to contribute to improved scores. We are fortunate to be among the latter group this year and we will be spending some time this fall trying to decide what actions on our part actually contributed to improvement.

One thing that I've noted in my district, and seen quite consistently over the years since NCLB has put accountability squarely in our view, is the preoccupation with single year changes. I see lots of judgments and pronouncements made on single year drops and gains and I find that to be an extremely unhealthy phenomenon. (And, I want you to know that I think the increased accountability, in general, is a very welcome member to the table.) Schools that focus on the one year jump tend to do silly things like focus on all the high basic or low proficient to a greater degree than other students. So, let's take that to its logical conclusion. Let's say you get all the basic to move to proficient and see a major jump in proficiency? Next year, you might find that the below basic kids never moved to basic and there is no one to focus on this year.

This one-year fixation is contrary to studies like those in Good to Great that demonstrate that successful organizations develop their strengths over time. Dips from one year to the next may be evidence of a downward spiral or they may simply be the effect of the implementation of new procedures or retooling of processes that may initially result in an "implementation dip" only to be followed by greater gains in the next couple years. So, here's my vote for taking the long view on test scores.

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