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Making student test results meaningful and relevant for parents is one of the most important themes that we have picked up during interviews with education leaders about how they apply accountability principles in their work. One former state school leader pointed out -- with great concern -- that the information from state achievement exams is often presented to parents in a way that makes little to no sense.
Terms like “learning at Level II” or “Phase-in Level Il,” which Texas has used to describe student achievement levels, carry absolutely no meaning for parents. Edu-speak is often its own language that best serves insiders instead of parents and students.
Fortunately, Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath gets this point. This week, the Texas Education Agency released a family-friendly way to present results from the state's annual STAAR exams. At Morath’s insistence, no longer will parents get bureaucratic lingo. The state's student report card will come in plain language, allowing parents to know, for example, whether their child is reading at the right grade level. Or, conversely, whether they are not yet reading at grade level.
There are other clear markers as well, which you can see at this site. What is key is that Morath and team want to demystify the exams for parents and students so that they can make sense of the results.
Equally important, parents can go to www.texasassessment.com to see the questions their student missed. And they will find materials, such as suggested reading lists, to help them work with their student to overcome learning deficits. (Spanish versions are available, too, which matters in Texas, where Latinos make up more than half of the state's student population.)
These tools may take a while to work their way into homes. But they are precisely the types of reforms that will make annual statewide tests, which are key to understanding student progress,, meaningful to parents and students. Making meaning of data means that those parents and guardians can also make informed decisions about how to best support their student’s academic success.
Instead of seeing tests as irrelevant or a waste of time, as some parents complain, tests will become a tool to learn more about a student's progress. What’s more, they will become a way for parents to help their children progress even further.
What’s not to like about that?
Anne Wicks serves as the Director of Education Reform at the Bush Institute. In this role, she develops and oversees the policy, research, and engagement work of the Education Reform team.
Before joining the Bush Institute, Wicks served for five years as Associate Dean for External Relations at the University of Southern California's Rossier School of Education. In addition to leading a team with revenue, communications, and engagement goals, she supported Dean Karen Symms Gallagher on a variety of special projects including the launch and early growth of Ednovate Charter Schools. She currently serves as the chair of PMC Support, a supporting organization for Ednovate Schools. Over her career, she has held management and resource development roles at organizations including Teach for America, the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children's Health, and Stanford University. Anne holds a B.A in American Studies and a M.A. in Education from Stanford University (during which she taught 8th grade social studies), as well as a M.B.A. from the University of Southern California. A former captain of Stanford's women's volleyball team, Anne was part of three national championship teams, two as a player and one as an assistant coach.Full Bio
Preparing All Kids for an Unpredictable Future
This essay, which draws from remarks that Bush Institute Education Reform Director Anne Wicks gave at the Bush Center's Forum on Leadership, appeared last week on The 74.
Forget the Edu-Wonks. NAEP Scores Should Get the Attention of Workforce Development Leaders
There is no shortage of buzz in the education policy world about the scores from the 2017 NAEP exam. But the people who really ought to be thinking about the results from the so-called “Nation’s Report Card” are the ones in charge of developing the workforce in a state or community.
Accountability Systems Need to be Simple Enough for Parents and the Public to Understand and Act Upon
What we need is a constant balancing of fairness and simplicity. This should be a primary goal for states like Texas now that the new Every Student Succeeds Act gives them more responsibility for holding schools accountable for their results.