“What gets measured gets done” is a saying that has been used to send a message for years.
The message is that measuring something gives you the information you need to help you achieve the task at hand. For a couple of decades, the United States has been trying to improve its education system by measuring student performance with standardized tests implemented through the No Child Left Behind Act. Many argued that the Act relied too much on the tests and penalizing schools when all of their students weren’t on track to reach proficiency on state tests. Did the No Child Left Behind Act achieve the goal?
Let’s look back before standardized testing. Education started to be a hot topic when President Lyndon Johnson signed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. The goal was to provide educational funding to states so that every child would have access to an education. Congress would then reauthorize the law every three to five years based on how the states reported students were learning. Problems began when the Democrats and Republicans started to see evidence of growing achievement gaps that showed that poor and minority students were often in failing schools. They formulated a measurement and accountability system to try and fix the problem – every child was not receiving a quality education. “The fundamental principle of this bill is that every child can learn, we expect every child to learn, and you must show us whether or not every child is learning,” President George W. Bush said at the signing ceremony on January 8, 2002. Were we using the right measurement?
I remember teaching a lesson on measurement to my second grade students. We were using paper clips, cubes, crayons, and a variety of other materials to explain the concept of different units of measurement. The students soon began to understand that things can be measured in a multitude of ways and even started to choose which method they liked most. They often preferred to use the materials they had the most of because it was very frustrating to be measuring the length of the bulletin board, run out of cubes, and then have to problem solve. These moments are the best teachers. I have learned that flexibility is important for learning and measuring and it seems that Congress would agree. A new law, the Every Child Succeeds Act (ESSA), was signed by President Obama on December 10, 2015. Measurement would no longer be a one-size-fits-all approach and schools and districts will have the opportunity to implement reforms and new accountability standards that meet the needs of individual students and communities. Who will be held accountable?
With the passing of ESSA, the original goal of every child receiving a quality education now comes with more defined expectations and puts more responsibility for measuring and achieving the goal at the state level. The following points are what the State of Michigan will now be held accountable for:
Set high standards so that children graduate high school ready for college and career. This is an exciting component of the new law for Choice as it confirms what we have already been doing: preparing students for a successful future. At Bradford Academy, 100% of students were accepted to a post-graduate course of study.
Maintain accountability by guaranteeing that when students fall behind, effective resources are given to help schools improve, with a focus on the lowest-performing five percent of schools, high schools with high dropout rates, and schools where subgroups of students are struggling. We believe that informed educators can partner with parents to hold themselves and students accountable. Choice has started the transition of report cards from traditional letter based grades to standards based grades giving educators an opportunity to evaluate students and parents an opportunity to learn the progress of their child in each area. Better information has led to increased engagement between teacher and parent, produced sound data for teachers to use in determining individual student interventions, and students are starting to hold themselves accountable for improving in specific areas.
Empower state and local decision-makers to develop their own strong systems for school improvement based upon evidence, rather than imposing the same federal solutions from the past. At Choice, we do not believe that a one size fits all approach to education works as the needs of each school are different. Each Academy has a unique school improvement plan and set of interventions that both accelerates learners at or above grade level and brings learners needing extra time up to speed. Choice empowers our school leaders, educators, and each individual school board to weigh on school improvement initiatives at their school. The power of decision making is at each school, not at our office.
Use annual assessments and reduce the burden of unnecessary and ineffective testing on students and teachers. Make sure that standardized tests don’t crowd out teaching and learning, but still offer the information that parents and educators need to make sure our children are learning. Choice is collaborating with our school leaders and highly effective teachers to create a plan for testing that will enhance instructional content and methods, help overcome test anxiety and improve testing conditions and outcomes for students and teachers.
At Choice, we believe that all students can and will learn at high levels, regardless of the socioeconomic status, color of their skin, disability, or any other factor outside of their control.
Provide more children access to high-quality preschool, giving them the chance to get a strong start to their education. Choice has embraced both tuition based preschool and the Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP) for more than 10 years. We see offering access to a high-quality early childhood education as part of our mission to give children a shot at their dreams. Without a solid start to their education, they are already behind socially and academically. We are proud to serve over 400 students in high-quality preschools at 13 of our schools.
It seems the goal and the measurement are still the same, but now individual states will be held more accountable for the achievement of their students. Choice sees this change as an opportunity for Michigan to be more innovative with educational funding. We must try new ideas, problem solve and then make the right choices so that every child receives an education superior to the goals of the past and that can only truly be measured by the opportunities of their future.
We encourage all of our decision makers to be in the know and be aware of what’s expected with this new Act. Read more about it here.