ELA Goals Revisited

Before the school year began I set the goal of helping every student pass the ELA with a 3. Even though I've always had my doubts about the reliability of the state tests in assessing student performance, I do believe that a kid who can read at grade level should be able to pass the test with a 3. So in setting my sights on 24 or 25 3's, I was essentially saying I wanted to get all my students to grade level by January.

This may have been a reach since 2/3 of the kids coming into my class were reading 1-2 grades below level. But this was the goal I set, because I believe there is no time to spare in helping students like mine catch up to their peers in better funded schools. I also saw this goal as a chance to set myself apart and prove that I had fully developed as a teacher. I wanted to be beyond competent. I wanted to be excellent.

Looking at the scores of my students with disappointment, I can still see progress for myself and them. But it seems excellence will have to wait at least another year. In the mean time, I'm looking at the scores of my grade-level peers, and seeing that I too, am "approaching the standard" for the grade, and not yet meeting it. This was the most frustrating disappointment of all, because of how much I feel I've grown since last year, and the amount of positive feedback I've been receiving since September.

In spite of all that, it looks like I have much work to do. I plan on keeping the same goal for myself and my students provided I continue to teach a testing grade next year. The goal of every student attaining a 3 for me is not about testing skills, but just shaping them into competent readers, and that's a worthwhile goal for me. I didn't decide to teach to produce marginal gains. I want to know that when my students leave my classroom, I have made a profound difference. For the time being, I'll have to assure myself that I've had a positive effect, just not one that was measured on this year's ELA.


jonathan said…
But what do you think? Have your kids been learning?

I think I might be interesting in setting goals related to the kids and what they can do, rather than the kids and what they can score...

Even that you didn't know in advance which way the scores would fall... that says something about the degree of arbitrariness in the NYS testing program. Worse, it will be, I guarantee, if NYC and the acuity crew are allowed free rein.

So, there it is, without referring to test scores: are children learning in your class? Are you pleased with how much? Where could you be more effective?

(questions are for you - I'm not asking for a public accounting)

Jonathan jd2718

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