Discussion about standardized testing brings out opinions, questions and lots of misinformation.
The Department of Education Bureau of Standards and Instructional Support will be coming to town.
“They are offering to come to districts throughout the state to have what they are calling ‘standards conversations,’” Diane Dyer, Executive Director of Teaching and Learning said. “The audience is intended to be what are called ‘standard practitioners,’ teachers, assorted academic coaches, district level curriculum people and people who work with the teachers and are working with the standards now.”
“We are knocking on the door of being a top 10 district,” Shawn Schmidli, Director of Growth and Management.
The district has proposed two dates, Tuesday, Oct. 27, or Friday, Oct. 30, both from 4- 6 p.m.
“They are going to show us online tools and resources they have developed; a “parent night” tool kit, model lesson plan and how to pull this all together,” Dyer said.
Flagler wasn’t affected by major testing and technology problems that plagued other school jurisdictions, something Dyer credits to Director of Research and Growth Shawn Schmidli.
“Shawn made the brilliant decision to wait the window for testing and let other people start so all the kinks got worked out in other districts.”
While the district knows which students didn’t pass the test, the actual test scores have not been released by the Department of Education.
“We sent several educators to the state standards setting committee a few weeks ago and they made recommendations to the Department of Education,” Dyer said.
With 12,000 students, Flagler is considered a small to medium size district, but is performing at the upper scale of success.
“We are knocking on the door of being a top 10 district,” Schmidli said. “We were 11th and 12th respectively. We don’t know what we are this year.”
Flagler stays abreast of how they are performing compared to other districts, rather than waiting for Tallahassee to tell them where they rank.
“We want to know if we are being competitive with the other 66 districts,” Schmidli said.
Value-added models, known as VAMs, are used to measure a specific impact or influence on performance, and have been criticized as being too difficult this year.
“It’s a new state assessment and we know it’s a harder assessment and there’s a misconception out there that all of the VAM scores are going to come back low for teachers because the test was harder,” Schmidli said. “I tell people that’s not what’s going to happen because the VAM is a competitive model. If we are all running a track race against each other and let’s say we’re running in 55 mph wind. It’s not just windy in lane one, it’s a tougher running environment for all of us. The fastest person is still going to win that race. That’s how it makes sense to me. It may be a tougher test but it’s a tougher test for everybody.”
Flagler is also on target for the amount of time spent testing. State and federal mandates require testing take up 5 % or less of the student’s time at school.
“We were already there so we felt comfortable with that requirement,” Schmidli said.
Being a technology-equipped district contributes greatly to the testing ease according to Dyer. The testing is computer-based and schools without adequate technology access often struggle. This is not the case in Flagler, which has broadband and computers for their students.
“We have the community to thank for that,” Dyer said. “We are very lucky we have the technology we have because so many districts leading up to this were in such turmoil because they didn’t know how they were going to accommodate their kids. They didn’t have enough computers to actually give the kids and they had to take computers away from instruction for testing. We didn’t have those issues.”
“We think our teachers are doing such a good job teaching the standards that we are confident that our students will do well on the test itself,” Dyer said.