I have written this before, and I have shared this in presentations I have given, but it’s worth reflecting upon it again:
My biggest regret in education is the emphasis I placed on standardized test scores during my time as an administrator in SAU16.
I became known as the “data guy’. Blech. I railed against teacher generated assessments and more for the “more scientific” NWEA and NECAP test scores. Blech. I complimented those teachers whose students showed improvement, and pushed those whose students did not. Blech.
As a parent, I could not care less about my children’s test scores because I know they are not true indicators of who they are.
And now, the indictments of Superintendent Beverly Hall and 34 others in the Atlanta School District for manipulating student tests in order to artificially inflate test scores (and receive massive bonuses) force me to reflect upon the culture I may have helped create. Specifically, this quote from the indictment strikes hard:
Over time, the unreasonable pressure to meet annual APS [Atlanta Public Schools] targets led some employees to cheat on the CRCT [Criterion Referenced Competency Tests]. The refusal of Beverly Hall and her top administrators to accept anything other than satisfying targets created an environment where achieving the desired end result was more important than the students’ education.
I know that I didn’t receive any monetary benefit above and beyond my salary while in SAU16, but did I help create a culture of pressure? Did I push to the point where anything other than “satisfactory targets” are accepted? I recently wrote about the email alert I received to get my kids to bed early and feed them a hearty meal in order for them to be able to concentrate on their tests… did I set the tone five years ago that resulted in this thinking?
I can recall chairing a committee when I was the Curriculum Administrator of the Cooperative Middle School designed to bring the school from “Good to Great” (yes, we stole the title). During the very first meeting, a teacher* asked, “Is this is about improving test scores? If so, I’m out.”
I wish I asked that question more back then. I may not be asking it as much today.
*That teacher is now my son’s English teacher…and he’s a better person as a result.