School grades were recently released.
Some schools were very pleased; some not so much.
I know that ranking schools has a place and is a part of being transparent and accountable to the public. I support transparency, but we need to take a deeper look into our schools beyond test scores. Some things to consider are the curve on which schools were graded, environmental influences outside of school, and the qualifications of our teachers.
One factor to consider in the 2016-2017 ranking is that schools were ranked on a Bell Curve and not a straight scale. This method ensures that there will be a certain number of schools who receive a “D” or “F” as their ranking. However, are they really struggling or failing schools, or did they just fall in that lower percentage of schools at the state level?
Another factor to take into consideration is all of the influences that are out of the control of the school or teacher. Is the student living in a safe environment? Is the student receiving nutritious meals on a daily basis outside of school? Does the student live at a fixed residence, or is he or she moving frequently? Does the student have responsible adults available to provide homework help, transportation, and a predictable routine?
Many of our teachers, administrators, and support personnel are working tirelessly to meet the needs of our students and to help them achieve as much as possible. I have been on campus after school and on weekends and there is never a shortage of teachers working to prepare whatever is coming up next. This commitment to students is not part of the evaluation system.
I am teaching in a school that received a high “B” label. We are looking at what we do well in our building, evaluating ways to continue to improve our student achievement level and, as a result, raising our letter label. Is a “B” bad? Absolutely not! But it does not mean that we can sit back and coast.
Last year I earned the title National Board Certified Teacher. This distinction means that I voluntarily underwent a rigorous process of presenting, analyzing and reflecting on my classroom techniques and content knowledge; finally submitting my work to be evaluated by other accomplished teachers in my field of study. When I started the process I was on the edge of burnout having taught 12 years previously. When I completed the process (three years later), I had a new passion and focus to my teaching. Have my students benefitted from this process? There is no doubt that they have.
One of the focuses that I have now is to help other teachers to achieve National Board Certification. Research has proven that students who have a National Board Certified teacher will achieve 2-3 months more growth per year over students who have a teacher who is not National Board Certified. My goal is to seek out those teachers who are already accomplished in their field and are willing to go through this process to make themselves better so as to benefit the students they teach.
National Board Certification is not a silver bullet. It will not solve every issue we face as educators in helping our students achieve. I feel that it is a good place to start. Every journey starts with the first steps. When we work one day at a time and do the next right thing for the students in our classrooms, big differences can be made.
As we look at school letter rankings, try to see them as a snapshot of what took place in a small window of time. Don’t judge the school by its letter grade. Rather, look at it and say, “What can I do to support the schools in my community?” Regardless of your school's ranking, they still need your community support. Make a tax credit donation, volunteer in the school, or help with service projects that benefit the school.
A strong educational system is the foundation of a strong community. Good schools bring in industry; industry creates jobs; jobs add tax revenue to support public services. It is by strengthening our foundations, that we together can make Kingman a better place to live.
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