I tend to be non-committal about controversial topics. It comes naturally for me to see both sides of a situation. This is powerful in that is easy to understand and empathize with people with many viewpoints. It’s problematic in that I, myself, don’t always have a firm ground to stand and have a hard time stating my stance. I’ve been in this limbo over the idea of a standards-based classroom versus a test-based classroom for the last several years. Chris wrote about her thoughts on the matter recently here.
I’ve seen different strategies for achieving student success in various situations. Each teacher, building, and district has such admirable points about what they’re doing to help students succeed. In some situations, it appears that the curriculum and assessment is entirely created based on the CCSS. In other situations, I’ve see instruction based on purchased curriculum, regardless of alignment. And, of course, there are scenarios, where I would argue the classroom is really SBAC-aligned as opposed to CCSS-aligned.
In my wishy-washy state, I’m not convinced that any of these scenarios are right or wrong for kids. But I can’t help but ask myself: What do I want for my students? What do I want them to leave me being able to do? What skills do they need for success in future years? What message am I giving to them about their whole selves?
These questions lead me to wonder is it better to create a year based on the CCSS, with SBAC in mind as one assessment OR to create a year based on what will be asked of students on the SBAC? Perhaps it’s a happy medium? I don’t know. I’ve been in both places.I know the standards well (especially with Tom’s and Mary’s help!) and have found success in aligning my instruction to move students forward in these standards. I also have a lot of experience in working with SBAC (or in previous times, the MSP), stemming material to match the layout, and seeing students be successful in answering test questions.
There’s a flip-side to both scenarios. If a high-stakes test is given and students aren’t familiar with the format, there are many students who may have the skills to perform well but are thrown off by questioning formats they’ve never had experience with. On the other hand, if students are taught exclusively using stemmed material to align to the high-stakes assessment, there are situations where kids can pass the test but aren’t actually ready for future instruction in any other format (so doesn’t that go against everything we know about “college and career readiness”?).
There you have it. In true Alisa-fashion … I’m torn. I constantly am in a battle with myself about what is the most effective way to instruct children. What strategies will lead my students to the greatest future success? Is my biggest worry a high-stakes test – for all kids? For some kids? For no kids? The answer is … I don’t know.
What I do know is that success happens within systems. It’s not enough to answer these tough questions on our own. In order to provide our students with the most cohesive education, our teams, grade levels, departments, buildings and districts need to be on the same page. There needs to be common goals and mission statements. I think if teachers are committed to a strategy and, regardless, of personal beliefs, buy into the group strategy, our kids are going to perform for the better. Of course, you’d first have to decide on your measurement of performance. I would suggest, if you already haven’t, taking some time to discuss what is your team’s strategy? Under your given leadership, what can all educators commit to for kids? How can teachers with opposing views come together for the mission of the system? Is your strategy appropriate for your student population at this time?
I don’t know the answer. I’m not sure anyone does. But I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter. Do you consider yourself in the “CCSS-Aligned” camp, “SBAC-Aligned” camp, or some other camp completely? And the more important question – Why?
I grew up here in Western Washington, wanting to be a teacher for as long as I can remember. As the oldest child in my family, I had plenty of opportunities to "practice" teaching my younger siblings. I enjoyed this. They may not have. :) When I'm not working, I enjoy outdoor activities with my husband and our two Australian Shepherds (whom are far too spoiled for their own good!). I also love spending time with my family, being an auntie (to the cutest kids ever to grace this planet!), hosting dinner parties for friends, crafting, taking photographs and shopping.