Like most teachers in Washington, I’ve been nervously awaiting the results of my students’ SBA tests. In fact, I’ve become something of a “Homeroom Junkie.” Homeroom is the platform on which my district stores and displays assessment results, and for the last month I’ve been compulsively logging in to watch the results trickle in. It’s still a little early to draw conclusions, but I’m doing it anyway.
First of all, it looks like Washington State has done better than expected. A little over half of our kids scored proficient or better on the literacy and math tests, while we were expecting only 30-40% to pass. That’s encouraging. And it will only get better. In my experience, teachers are still getting their minds around the new standards and we’re not even close to completely aligning our curriculum to the Common Core. I think that teachers will quickly discover that “teaching to the test” is not the sellout it used to be. This test and these standards are different; teaching to this test simply means focusing most of our instruction on the CCSS. And that’s a good thing!
Take me, for example. I based most of my writing instruction this year on LDC modules. I also used an SBA-aligned version of our math adoption, which I downloaded from the publisher’s website. And my students rocked the SBA! Twenty of my 29 kids made proficient or better on both tests, and most of those didn’t were either ELLs or on an IEP. This was considerably better than the rest of my school, district and apparently, the state. Trust me, it wasn’t my teaching; in the past, my scores were comparable to my school, district and state. I’m quite certain these scores were due to curriculum alignment.
Teachers are competitive. And so are principals. When there’s a performance disparity, word gets around and good ideas spread. What’s nice about the SBA is that there are so many states using it. As soon as teachers, schools, districts and states find out what works, others will follow. And the students will be the real winners.
Having test results available before the end of summer is a big deal. In the past, we found out how our kids did right around the start of the school year. That’s a little late. Most teachers are planning all summer, if not on paper, at least in their minds. Summer is when most of us make big decisions about time, materials and overall approaches. Based on what I can see now from my students’ results, I know I’m going to double down on LDC and continue to use the SBA-aligned math curriculum. Those are big decisions, best made with timely data.
So all in all, I’m pleased. I’m delighted that the state scores are looking good; even more delighted that my own students did pretty well, and I’m glad to be delighted so soon.
Now I can enjoy my summer.