Securing the Floor to Raise the Ceiling
Sometimes both sides are right. Standardized tests do not confirm that students are doing their personal best work. Yet an inability to pass a grade level assessment does suggest that students have a deficiency in prerequisite skills for the next level. Can we agree to keep all students challenged and making progress…regardless of whether they are catching up or surging ahead?
When you bump your head on the ceiling, it’s the designer’s fault. When you bump your head on the floor, you may need to look in the mirror. It’s that way with student test scores, too. No one ever said that accountability testing was designed to limit how high achievement could get; rather, it was to ensure that no child was left behind because he or she was unprepared for the next level on the climb to the top.
Early intervention programs seek to catch developmental issues as soon as possible for young children. They pay off for a lifetime. So do basic reading and numeracy skills developed by grade three…and applied math and literacy skills by grade eight…and emerging abstract reasoning by grade ten. These are benchmarks that secure the floor for each age group.
Every child is born with gifts and challenges; it is our job as educators to provide the best possible platform for learning. This means multi-tasking as leaders. We do not receive our missions and instructions from regulators. We must actively design our agendas for all children. School leaders who simply following a formula of priorities set for the lowest common denominator are missing the point and trying to blame the regulators. The whole reason for benchmarks is not to define an endpoint, it is to quickly measure achievement of a goal and move on.
We continue to try to build education on a shaky foundation for too many children. Let’s fix that and move on.