Which education reports matter?
Importance of school indicators is a 'huge question'
"I want to know how our kids are doing. I want us to be constantly adjusting our instruction forward." - Washington County Public Schools Superintendent Clayton Wilcox (File photo / April 28, 2012)
Equally important to him, Forrest said, was that his son was taking band, art and a foreign language he was interested in learning.
Much of the talk about school reform and the focus on assessments as the sole indicator of how well a school is doing has “really sucked the life out of teaching,” Wilcox said.
Teachers cannot always afford to take advantage of “teachable moments” because they have a curriculum to teach, Wilcox said.
Beyond the tests
Neither Wilcox nor the school board members want to rely solely on assessment results. In addition to being interested in other reports — such as SAT results — some said they found anecdotal information a good judge of the school system.
Wilcox said he looks at formal data about college-entrance exams, assessment tests and post-secondary information about the school system’s graduates, but he also takes into account anecdotal information.
For instance, Wilcox said he hears from local employers how the school system’s graduates are doing.
“It’s not just about what grades they get,” board member Justin Hartings said, pointing out that athletes learn teamwork and how to work toward a common goal. “But, again, speaking more as a parent, you can tell if students are engaged in learning and if they’re enthusiastic and if they are asking good questions, and if they want to push their understanding further.”
That, to him, is as good of an indicator as good scores, Hartings said.
Such things as enthusiasm are much harder to quantify, hence standardized tests are used, Hartings said.
“My point is, it’s sort of a mosaic where there’s all these different parts that tell us where we’re doing well and where we’re not doing well,” Hartings said.
A good indicator of how well elementary schools are doing is the sense a person gets when they walk into the school, Wilcox said.
“You walk into a good school at the elementary level, you just know it,” Wilcox said.
Watch when the students arrive and see whether they are dragging their backpacks or are excited and running into the school, he said.
“I’ll know that we’ve made it as a district when kids run into school as they run out of school,” Wilcox said.
Forrest said he believes it’s important for the school system to make available rigorous high school courses with “meat to them” and for the content of those courses to be consistent from school to school.
The school system could bolster what it does for average and underperforming students, Forrest suggested.
“I think we need higher expectations for them,” he said. “I think the best teachers need to be in front of struggling students.”
Harshman said educators should make sure enrolling in an advanced placement course is worth the student’s time and effort. Not all colleges offer credit to students who earn a passing score on an AP exam, she said.