A frustrated LYS Principal submits the following: One of the many things I learned from E. Don Brown is that there is a simple litmus test for every decision you make as an instructional leader. If it’s good for adults, look carefully, because it is probably bad for kids. As you know, last week, classroom instruction in our entire school district was put on hold for four days in order to give a released TAKS benchmark. The reason given for this suspension of what’s good for kids, instruction, was that we needed to some valid “data.” How they are aligning TAKS to the unseen STAAR is evidently above my pay grade. Of course, we already have plenty of available data from the common assessments we have administered throughout the year. But for the Mensa candidates at the white house, this data isn’t valid. It seems that non-teaching adults need a never ending flow of more test data so they could show other non-teaching adults how successful we are as a district at collecting “data.” Good for adults (who don’t interact with students) but bad for kids! We have approximately 135 instructional days from the beginning of school to STAAR time. We just wasted four days that my students and teachers can’t get back. Don’t get me wrong! I know that we need to collect data in order to make good decisions and to correct our course of action on the fly. But every time you weigh the herd, you have to skip feeding the herd. If we keep weighing the herd at the exclusion of feeding the herd, we’re going to have some pretty skinny cows! SC Response Skinny cows? Is that where we get lean beef? I feel your pain. Frequent benchmark testing is simply superstitious behavior that adds no value to the quality of instruction. Just today, I was explaining to a large audience the value of short-term assessment over benchmarking. I shared that two benchmarks a year are all that is needed. One in January and one at the end of the year (in Texas, TAKS is the end of the year benchmark). For the rest of the year, teach, assess, adjust, repeat. The first question I got was, “How do you know if the students are making adequate progress.” I said, “Teach, assess, adjust, repeat.” She wasn’t convinced. So I left her with this to think about. I have yet to come across the district that has tested its way out of the ditch. But I can show you scores of them that have taught themselves out of the ditch and then on to greater success. Think. Work. Achieve. Your turn…

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