Monday, March 9, 2015

School Committee Public Comment March 9th

Before I begin, I want to quickly mention that parents have not forgotten the last school committee meeting's discussion on opt out rights and the confusion over the information actually sent home.  We sincerely hope that this will be addressed tonight.  

Thursday night, I read all the social media comments regarding the press conference for the opt out bill purposed by Sarah Gideon and Nathan Libby.  One sentiment from the comments repeated: How will we know how students are doing if they don't participate in the MEA?

I went to sleep thinking:  How does our community not know students are assessed daily?

Report cards, progress reports, numerical scores on assignments, and the narrative comments that accompany all those share data on student progress that teachers collect through assessment.  Teachers also conference with parents to share data.  Many teachers conference outside the mandated annual times, or if they don't meet face-to-face, they give the same information via phone or email. 

How do teachers generate data to report?  They do give standardized assessments. But, the bulk of teachers' data is not from these assessments. In fact, many teachers don't value this data at all. 

Teachers can't wait until the administration of a standardized assessment.  They know that student data should drive instruction in order to meet individual needs.  Teachers must frequently adjust lessons based on the needs reflected in the data.  Sometimes, that adjustment is weekly, and sometimes, it happens half way through a lesson.  Teachers need data daily, even hourly.  Cumbersome standardized assessments do not provide that. 

Every time a teacher observes a student, talks with a student, or reads a student's work, that teacher is assessing and gathering data on curriculum and habits of work.  At any moment in the classroom, a teacher's mind is a running record of data for each student in the room.  And at any moment of the day, a teacher can open a mental file of data on each of her students. This information is what a teacher uses to plan -- memories of students struggles and successes, not complex, detached score reports. 

So, how do we know if a student is progressing if he doesn't take the exam?  Simple: Ask his teacher.  Despite Mr Webster's assertion to the contrary on the news and in the Sun Journal, teachers are our best tool for measuring student progress. 

Recently, both national and local media has villianizes teachers.  Are there bad teachers?  Of course!  But there are also bad plumbers and doctors and chefs.  Negative press and privatization contribute to Americans not viewing teachers as professionals and subsequently dismissing their opinions.  Yet, teachers have degrees in education, some multiple advanced degrees.  Teachers are constantly learning through professional development and course work. So, why do people trust a test written by a distant corporation for profit and scored by non-professionals rather than the trained locals with whom their children spend half of their awake hours?

This committee can change the conversation and lead the community in respecting the professional opinions of teachers.  Right now in Lewiston, teachers are afraid to speak openly.  Why would we want the most educated and experienced community members in this field to not speak?  Its backwards and ludicrous and must stop now.  Please gather input from teachers.  Provide them with a private way to give honest feedback as well as a public forum to present their professional opinions and evidence.  Please aggressively seek their opinions instead of allowing their intimidated silence.

Some online commenters believed they couldn't know their children's progress unless compared to others in their class, state, or nation.  However, education is not competitive.  Yes, it is beneficial to know strengths and weaknesses at the individual and state level to identify best practice and provide support.  But ultimately do I care how my child compares, or do I care if she meets developmental milestones and masters content?  If she works to her potential and gets her unique needs met?  (Thinking I'll leave this paragraph out because I'm not sure it really is on topic and it will cut time).