Complexities of Measuring Effectiveness

“What are the real 3rd grade guarantee numbers?”

“Why do the Ohio Department of Education and the district report different percentages? Are you trying to hide something?”

These are all quotes that have been directed in my direction –either in person or on social media –from community members about the reporting of 3rd grade reading assessments. These questions provide a great opportunity for conversations –meaningful, honest communications about accountability.

We need to talk about the multiple pathways to meet the requirements; one media outlet may report only OAA results while another takes into account alternative pathways to meet state requirements. As we look at raw data – data just released within the week – in our district we are looking at individual students. We have transient students that may, or may not, still reside in our district. We have ELL and special needs data to check and cross-check. Our students aren’t simply numbers; our data represents your children. While expedience is great for a story . . . we’re not in this business for the story. We are in the business of preparing students for success; this is complicated stuff. It can’t be summarized in a story, sound bite, or single post.

imagesWe all seek an easy to understand table, chart, or graph to show our school district’s performance. The media wants an info-graphic to show on the screen or post in the story. We want it to be simple, easy to understand, and straightforward.

Here is the problem . . . education is complex, challenging to measure, and impossible to show with a single measure. Each child in our care, every single student in our classrooms, is a unique person with different strengths, needs, and passions. Socioeconomic challenges, such as poverty, can greatly impact education – we partner, support, and engage our families to maximize educational opportunities. There is no single test to measure every student; there is no single instructional method to reach all children. There isn’t a legislature or government agency that can fix education through a new law . . . we are dealing with the laws of nature.

Education is personal –it is taking the time to assess individual students, to build relationships, to cultivate talents, and to discover how each student best functions. I applaud the Ohio General Assembly and Ohio Department of Education for embracing our state’s diversity. Ohio has provided multiple pathways for students to earn promotion to 4th grade; we have multiple assessments that we can use, that we can learn from, when working with each individual student to meet the minimum criteria. Ohio’s new graduation requirements also include multiple pathways for high school students –personalizing education, embracing diverse needs, and providing options is essential for education.

In the coming weeks parents will receive other Ohio Achievement Assessment (OAA) results. It is important that we celebrate improvements, reflect on any declines, and analyze the results –this is what we do to improve. At the same time it would be hypocritical to declare ourselves “Excellent”based on the same one-day, one-size-fits-all assessment we disparage for promotion purposes.   We know educational is complicated; we celebrate educating the whole-child, and we embrace our diversity. Let’s be consistent in our practices. Success on the OAA is one measure –it isn’t the whole picture.

The OAAs have been part of our practice for over a decade –they will soon be replaced by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessments. Just as we have become familiar with the OAAs, it will take time to build the capacity necessary to utilize the PARCC tests to form instruction. We will get there, but we will also work to provide our community with a better, more complete report on our district’s progress.

The Hilliard City School District will be issuing our first Quality Profile in the fall. Our Quality Profile (QP) will be a first step in creating a document that reports to our community on a more complex level; a document that works to demonstrate everything that goes into a Hilliard Education. Will the first draft, our first attempt, be perfect? No . . . our first release will be a step in the journey. We will be asking for input, reflecting on the data we include, and continually seeking ways to improve our communication, performance, and practices.

Education is evolving . . . it should always be improving. There is no final destination for educators; we are on a learning journey with our students to prepare them for an ever changing tomorrow.

Follow me on Twitter @drjcm.