Tag Archives: test results

CHE GUEVARA’S BASEBALL TEAM

che     “Let me say at the risk of seeming ridiculous, that the true revolutionary is guided by great feelings of love…”   — Che Guevara

 

On Tuesday our 2008-09 test results finally arrived.  They were packaged neatly in a brown box, arriving on our door step like a UPS surprise.  A milk delivery.  Like an old Western Union Telegram containing some inevitable message that had to come sooner or later.

voodooSo we unwrapped the contents of the box and unfolded the scores like familiar laundry– grade level by grade level– and hung them on the clothesline:  math next to the lemon tree… while language arts dried in a Bay-soft breeze that otherwise cools the bouganvilla.  We figure if we treat our test results with such reverence, if we handle them gently enough, if we sprinkle them with holy water, if we read them by the light of a crescent moon, if we wait until the tides align, if we rub the rabbit’s foot, if we pay tributes to the voodoo altar… the news might be more favorable.

It wasn’t.

And so disappointment descends and we start to pick through the numeric bones like an autopsy:  

“We should have…”

“We could have…”

“This is because the ______ (fill in grade level here) grade teachers neglected to…”

“If only those ______ (fill in demographics here) students had just…”

“It’s all the _____’s (fill in excuse here) fault that we…”

The truth is, of course, we have complete control over our results.  El Milagro had record highs in 4 grade levels!  Our students are strong in writing and our 8th grade may have been the highest middle school in the South County. There were lots of promising trends. But the NCLB testing game is not just about trends.  It is about winning.  We are the baseball team that makes great plays and gets lots of hits and looks gorgeous in our uniforms… but can’t score runs.  If you can’t score runs… you won’t win games.

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So for the first time in the 10-year history of the testing game, Mueller Charter School will join the inglorious club of Program Improvement schools who will be left scratching their heads and waiting for a knock on the door from the local expert who will bring a magic solution on how to terminate your membership from “the club” sooner than later.  

We decided not to wait.  It is a new season.  We are already re-loading. We are organizing to score more runs.  We realized that even though we keep getting better results each year, other schools are passing us like we are standing still.  We can’t tinker at change… we have to turn El Milagro on its head.

Che Guevara is the face of revolution– but as far as I know he never played baseball.  And he didn’t seem like the kind of guy who would belong to any club.

clothes line

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Filed under El Milagro, innovation and change, school reform, standardized testing

INSTANT ABACUS

abacusjpegIt’s Week 2 of the California Standards Test and students are fingering their math facts like an abacus.  Many of our children couldn’t wait for the math portion of the CST.  They are descendants of the Mayans and ancient astronomers of the Yucatan.  They know mathematics.  It flows through their blood in algebraic platelets and word problems with multiple right answers. 

Math is our advantage.

But these are also the children of the video game and “Guitar Hero”; the dance step and :30 second wait for an Original Dream Machine with an extra energy boost.  They call upon the internet and it responds immediately– or they will divine a better connection.

The response is immediate.  The results appear promptly.  And the sociologists decry us all as the generation(s) somehow spoiled in our expectation of instant gratification.  And they may be right.

aim

But when it comes to the standardized testing game, we receive anything but instant gratification.  In fact, we will wait three months for the results.  They will come in late July, most likely the first week after our teachers return from a brief summer nap.  By then they will already have met their new students and new colleagues and new parents.  And right about the time that they are adjusting to the idiosyncracies and learning styles and potential and challenges of a new class, last year’s data will arrive with a crash on the doorstep.  Like the morning paper thrown too hard from a passing car.  One that slams the screen door at the bottom and sends the frightened cat racing through the house with her ears pinned back.  Scared shitless.   

The test results will of course make headlines in the local section of the Union-Tribune.  There will be a complete analysis.  They will be posted school by school on the internet.  And those of us who strain every day against an odd alignment of conflicting systems, will immediately recognize that no matter how good the news or how bad the news… there is not a thing that can be done now to change our history.

Schools will go into Program Improvement.  There will be sanctions and consequences.  Administrators will be shuffled.  Teachers will be placed on assistance plans.  But none of those steps can change the outcomes from a group of children who have now come and gone.  

So if the California Standards Test is so important that it can change lives and careers and entire communities… why does it tak three months to get the results?

This is after all the age of technology.  Instant gratification.  If it is so high a priority, tell us how our students did on this morning’s math assessment… but tell us now.  I’ll even give you a week. No excuses.  I don’t want to hear how many schools there are in California and the hundreds of thousands of tests that have to be scanned or the logistics of reporting it all back or any of those other stock complaints.  When we were chided about our low API a few years ago, no one wanted to hear about our families in crisis or our children who have lived in multiple foster homes or the child attending his 22nd different school or the inherent struggles for second language learners.  The mantra of the “Age of Accountability” is “No Excuses!  So we will push our students up the mountain side in search of miraculous growth.  We will keep them whole and alive.  We will challenge and cajole and celebrate them.  And we will test them.  

testAnd this morning, they will each complete question number 21– a pre-algebraic word problem with one absurd possible answer choice, one answer choice that will trick a number of children who aren’t yet test-savvy enough to smell a rat, one answer choice that is correct and one answer choice that goes down smoothly…a sugar sweet placebo to remind us all that standardized, multiple-choice tests are to the disadvantage of the children that actually think. But they don’t know if they got question #21 right. They don’t know if they fell for the tricks and the traps so they cannot make mid-flight adjustments like they do on their video games. They’ll never know.

And by the time the results come back they won’t care!  Because kids are like that. They want to know the results right now… or heck with it.  By next July they’ll have other fish to fry.  For teachers it is a different story.  The percentage of children that tanked on #21 will be instructive.  Sort of.

giftsBut imagine what our teachers might do with the data if they could get it back next Tuesday. As they unwrap the tangled trends: 

• They could review the results with students so they know where they are strong and what areas they need to work on with 5 weeks left in this academic year.

• They could create an individualized summer learning plan for students so they could bridge some gaps in their learning before the next school year starts.

• They could meet with parents and triangulate the CST results with evidence of classroom work and other local assessments.  By then, parents would know exactly what level their children are on– their academic strengths and areas for growth.

• They could provide parents a summer reading list based on the CST lexile report.

• They could bring some closure to the school year and prepare each child’s file for transferring on to the next teacher.

• They could identify appropriate grade level placements for the next school year.

• They could meet with next year’s teacher with definitive data.

• Grade levels could re-group around the data and identify areas that need to be re-taught, or celebrated, or re-enforced, or tossed out altogether.  

• They could make informed decisions about the programs and policies and approaches and innovations that were successful and the ones that weren’t.

• They could fully capitalize on their expertise in using data to leverage informed, strategic change.

And of course we do all of these things in time.  But if the system were better aligned, and the data were returned to us, and the legislators and test bureaucrats in Sacramento had to stretch as much as we did… we would all have the tools we need when those tools would have the greatest impact.

At El Milagro we are in search of results.  Now.  Instantly.  No excuses.

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Filed under California charter schools, charter schools, El Milagro, public education, standardized testing, teaching

HANDS ON THE GLASS

 

(NOTE: As the Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) goals continue to accelerate, more and more US schools will be categorized by the pejorative brand: “Program Improvement School”.  NCLB’s kiss of death.  By 2014 as many as 90% of America’s schools could be categorized as underperforming “Program Improvement” schools.  Perhaps it provides a handy label for politicians to rail on public education in general… but inside our schools, where we know our children’s names and faces, it is a different story.

This is the THIRD POST IN A SERIES as Mueller Charter School awaits its test results from the 2007-08 school year. Look for the SERIES every Monday as we get our results, assess the trends, and make strategic adjustments for the coming year.)    

Any day now the results will be in.

This is the time of year when California pushes out thousands of boxes filled with green and white test summary pages that serve as verdict on a year’s worth of instruction, effort, and innovation.  A year’s worth of hopes and dreams even when we know good pedagogy cannot thrive on hope.  A year’s worth of teacher meetings, parent conferences, home visits, student counseling, late afternoon training, pre-sunrise prep sessions.  A year’s worth of pouring through data, looking for trends,  making adjustments, researching best practices, assessing our kids again.  And again. A year’s worth of cheerleading, motivating, cajoling, pushing, driving, rebuking, challenging, modeling, observing, coaching, collaborating, whispering. 

When UPS pulls up we will all race to the window with our hands on the glass.  Like Christmas.  “They are here!”

 The boxes will  roll up ominously—if not unceremoniously—on industrial strength cargo carts.  We’ll pry their lids open and take the grade level summaries right off the top.  And in a matter of moments… the verdict will be in.  We know where to look.  We know how to crunch the numbers. We’ve been here before.  Too many times.

At Mueller Charter School our mission is to get 90% of our students to grade level.  To do so requires that we overcome poverty, overcome California’s insistence on testing children in a foreign language (English), overcome family crises, overcome a community’s near collapse from escalating fuel costs and home foreclosures, overcome public policy trends that are indifferent to students’ health care needs, and overcome industry expectations that are based on a conviction that we can’t overcome any of these things. 

We already know that our English language learners are at risk.  Our charter is at risk too as we come perilously close to the “Program Improvement” tattoo.  We won’t likely discover that 90% of our students tested at the Proficient level on the California Standards Test this past year.  So we will have to regroup and find a different path. Like every year.

The students don’t report to their first day of school until Monday  but already we are exhausted as we anticipate the possible outcomes on a test now three months old and an academic year whose destiny we can no longer influence.

Any day now, the results will be in.  

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