I love summer break, but likely not for the same reason as our students. During this time, administrators, teachers and support staff have uninterrupted time to think deeply, self-reflect, discuss and plan. One of the benefits of working in a school system is the fresh start that comes with every September. Along with new teacher/student relationships, new classes and new extra-curricular groups and teams, we get the opportunity to improve the way we help our students learn. This summer when our teachers prepare for the 2014-15 school year, they think about the following questions:
- How did our students do on the 2014 NY State tests? Where did we have the most success? Where did we come up short?
- What is lacking in our instructional resources that may be unique to our students and must be added to supplement for their needs?
- How do the local assessment results along with the NY State exam results give us a sense of student progress and needs? What other information should be considered as we assess students’ knowledge and achievement?
- Perhaps most important, how do the results on the NY State 3rd-8th grade tests show how well our students have progressed to learn the content and skills necessary to be successful in the subsequent grade? What decisions can we make for the 2014-15 school year that will lead to greater mastery of the most significant standards at each grade level?
While the summer sessions have prioritized topics about instruction and curricular materials, the 2014 3rd-8th NY State test results were not going to be available in time to do a full analysis. Without this information, our teachers would not be able to fully reflect on the 2013-14 school year, analyze their practices and plan for next year.
I shared this with senior leadership at the Education Department, describing how helpful it would be for our educators to know as soon as possible the areas in which students were progressing, and where they need more support. I knew that other districts were interested in this as well.
Well, they listened. This week, the NY State Education Department announced the release of the 3rd-8th grade instructional reports for English Language Arts and Math. As a district, we have always been focused on continuous improvement, and now our teachers will have the information that they need from the state exam to directly inform instructional practice. The data will help us better understand what standards that we need to work on, know what we have done well, and what the key instructional resources and support that we will want to consider for next year.
Our Curriculum Coordinator, Mr. Jamie Berg, explains, “This data will demonstrate to us whether our students have grown. We will be able to look at what we have been doing, what has worked, and where we can improve. This data will allow us to look deeper into our practices and provide what is best for our students.”
Test results shouldn’t be just an end of the year event. They should be used to continuously inform instructional practice. These reports will help all of us strengthen student learning and increase student success.
Kimberly Moritz is the Superintendent of Randolph Central School District in Randolph, NY.