The state is getting ready to send out the TNReady scores for both achievement and growth and later in this newsletter I give you some explanations of both, but before we move into all the mechanics of the information that you will see coming home hopefully sometime this month, I thought it might useful for you to know where I stand on testing. I found a great article from George Couros that really sums up my feelings about testing and data and its importance. I understand why we test our students. The state and the government want to know if we are doing our job as a school or a system since we are funded by taxpayers who want to know. But, I feel that students are more than one test given during a year of learning that involved lots of curiosity about information they were learning, many mistakes were made and students learned from them as well as "aha" moments that made all the hard work for the teacher, the parents and the student worth every tear that was shed. These moments are not caught by that one test. The information below really states much better than I can write how I feel about testing and children. I will always run my school by putting my children first and then testing becomes just another part of what we do at the end of the school year. I do not instruct my teachers to teach to the test but I do ask them to prepare students for what they will have to do on the test, make sure they are familiar with the mechanics of taking a test and then the rest of the time we just TEACH and LEARN!

September 22, 2017, by George Couros

The short answer to the title of the post is “no”, you can’t be both “Child-Driven” and “Data-Driven”. Here is the long answer.

When you have two focuses on what you are driven by, there will be times where one situation comes into conflict with the other. For example, when we “teach to the test” and not “to the child”, they might get the number we want, but if the learning doesn’t stick, did it hurt, harm, or do nothing for the child, and everything for the “number” we were looking for in the first place because of the data that we were “driven” by?
Dean Shareski tweeted this:

I used to do that, and I am ashamed to admit it. Not only did I not honor the strengths and passion of the students, I often made them hate coming to school. Here is something that is true; a kid won’t learn anything at school if they don’t show up in the first place.
Yes, sometimes we have to do things we hate, and that is okay. But when we do things to validate the adults that hurt kids, our focus is on the wrong place.

Let me make this clear…Data is not a horrible thing. Being “data-driven” is my concern.
I prefer the term “child-driven, evidence-informed”. The term “evidence” is much more encompassing, not necessarily by definition, but in how we use the words in education. Evidence is that amazing concert, the interaction we see in the hallways, the conversations we have with one another, that can’t be boiled down to a letter or number. Using that to inform what we do to serve the child is crucial to the growth of the individual, the educator, and the system as a whole.

Bill Ferriter, in his post, “Meaningful Ain’t Always Measurable“, states the following:
I’m trying to call out a system that simultaneously encourages us to pursue lofty goals like teaching students to critically think or to build consensus or to be creative while asking us to fit every goal that we pursue into some kind of measurable format.
The truth is that the things that are the MOST meaningful are also the hardest to measure.

If you want kids to wrestle with meaningful objectives, you are going to have to back off your demands that everything be measurable in some way, shape or form. If measurement is what you want, simple outcomes is what you need to settle for. If one day, before you became a teacher, you thought to yourself, “Do you know what I would like to do one day? Test kids.”, There might be something wrong. But the system of education in North America has seemingly gone this way where the test (and the number) is the thing, not the students we serve. If people don’t call it out, it is not going to change.

It is that time of year again when our testing results from last years TNReady is starting to be available. We are provided with two types of information; one is growth and the other is achievement. The state of Tennessee uses TVAAS to measure student growth. There are many misconceptions about growth vs. achievement and the information below is helpful in understanding how our state measures student growth.

TVAAS measures student growth, not whether the student is proficient on the state assessment. For example, a student who is behind academically may show significant academic growth but not be proficient on the end of the year test. Another student may also not be proficient on the end of the year test, but not show any growth. The teacher added a lot of a lot of value to the first student's academic development and increased the likelihood that they will be proficient in the next grade level and little value to the other student's academic development. TVAAS allows educators to consider their students' achievement (their score on the end of year assessment, as well as their growth (the progress students make year to year).

Low-achieving students can grow and their teachers can earn strong TVAAS scores. When students grow more than expected, that growth is reflected in a teacher's TVAAS score - regardless of whether the student earned below basic, basic, proficient or advanced on the state assessment. An example is Treadwell Middle School in Memphis had low entering achievement in middle school math (students performed in the 33rd percentile compared to their peers across the state), yet they were among the top 20% of schools in the state on growth in 7th and 8th-grade math in 2013-2014.

High-achieving students can grow and their teachers can earn strong TVAAS scores. Just as children grow in height each year, they also grow in academic ability. If a second grader is tall in relation to her peers, she will need to continue to grow each year to be tall relative to her peers in fifth grade. A tall second grader who does not continue to grow will soon be a short fifth grader. Likewise, our highest performing students still have room to grow academically and their teachers can still earn high TVAAS scores. Even students who consistently earn advanced scores can demonstrate growth.

What is TNReady?
TNReady is a part of the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) and is designed to assess true student understanding, not just basic memorization and test-taking skills. It is a way to assess what our students know and what we can do to help them succeed in the future.

There are two sites below that you can go to in order to learn more about TNReady and TVAAS.

TNReady - TN.Gov
Family Report

NASHVILLE—Education Commissioner Candice McQueen announced TNReady results for students in grades 3-8 today, following an extended scoring and review process led by Tennessee educators. With these results, elementary and middle school students have set a new baseline for future growth, now aligned with our high school reset last year, based on the Tennessee academic standards that will better ensure all students are on track for the next step in their education journey.

TNReady results help teachers, students, and parents learn about students' strengths and areas for growth, and it provides specific feedback that can help parents understand how they can best support their child. TNReady replaces the old TCAP and is better aligned to Tennessee's academic standards, which were developed and set based on a comprehensive review process. It looks for what students know and are able to do in each grade, with a particular focus on students' problem solving, critical thinking, and writing skills.

"TNReady allows us to see how Tennessee students are mastering our state's academic standards as we transition to higher expectations at all grade levels," McQueen said. "Students have now set a new baseline for future growth that reflects the higher bar we are holding for all of our students. This is a key moment for our state, as we are now transitioning to the point where we have a true understanding of where students are from elementary through high school, and we can use that information to better support their growth."

Overall, students' performance on TNReady reflects the readiness they show on national tests like the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), which is known as the Nation's Report Card and is a gold standard for assessments. In previous years, Tennessee's TCAP results did not match what exams like NAEP and the ACT showed, which earned the state an "F" from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in 2007 for "Truth in Advertising" about students' true readiness. The 2017 TNReady results reflect a similar level of performance to what Tennessee sees on national exams, and we know more students are now going on to be successful in college and the workplace.

TNReady scores fall into one of four achievement levels: mastered, on track, approaching, and below grade-level expectations. The new categories aim to help teachers and parents more easily identify which students may need additional support and which students are ready to excel—which is the goal of state assessments. Along with the new achievement levels, families and teachers will receive new score reports to help them support each student's individual needs.
This was the first year of TNReady for grades 3-8, and achievement results for English and math cannot be compared to prior TCAP scores. Instead, they set a new baseline for future growth.

Many parents struggle with the nature/nurture debate and can attribute a child's success or lack of success to genetics. Oliver James (2008) stated, "Simply holding the belief that genes largely or wholly determine you or your children can be toxic". Mr. James also made the analogy to mental illness, writing, "If you suffer a mental illness, believing it's down to genes means you are less likely to recover, probably because you believe there's nothing you can do about it". Parents, teachers, coaches, scout leaders, and any other role models should never blame genetics for perceived capabilities. If any adult in a child's life communicates low expectations either verbally or nonverbally, the achievement can suffer.

Helping parents understand that the brain is malleable and that growth in intelligence can grow for any child presents a secondary outcome is that those adults with growth-oriented mindsets are also more likely to engage in more challenging tasks, to persevere and to bounce back from adversity. Developing an "I can do this" attitude is necessary for children to survive in this world. We must learn to build resilience in our children. Parents often overlook opportunities to helping children learn to adjust to situations when they are faced with adversity or lack of success. Parents may say to a child, "No wonder you did not do well on that test, you are always playing video games" or "You shouldn't have tried out for that team in the first place, you knew it would be a long shot" do not contribute to building resilience. Children who hear this type of mindset will eventually try to avoid anything where they are not very sure that they will be successful rather than view the situation as a challenge to rise to. Here are some suggestions for building resilience in our children:

Use growth mindset praise. Always praise a child's willingness to try, effort, patience, and practice. Do not attribute success to "being smart" or "being the best" but to hard work and perseverance.

Model flexibility. Being able to switch gears and change plans is important when building resilience in our children. One of the best things that we can do is to communicate that change is part of living life. Parents can model this for their children by taking a flexible mentality when things do not go their way. For example, if a parent plans a trip to a museum, only to find its actually closed on Mondays, then he or she could immediately model flexibility by selecting an alternate activity. Taking this attitude in everyday life is important as well for parents, especially by not letting a frustrating situation get the best of them.

Adopt a "glass half full" mentality in the home. Even during hardship, we need to find positivity. A child with "hope" believes there can be a positive side to most situations. Parents also need to model a positive attitude, both verbally and nonverbally, when faced with their own setbacks.
Help children find their own niche. A successful child is a confident child. Sometimes it means trying lots of different things before a child finds an area where she can thrive. This does not mean signing your child up for every lesson, sport, and club that comes along. It means providing opportunities for kids to experience a variety of things...

I would love for you to come and attend one of our coffee chats coming up in October and November as we discuss how to have a growth mindset!

We will hold two coffee chats in the month of October for Part I of this study. We hope if you are interested you can attend one of the two offered in October to receive the information from Part I of our study. In order to best serve our parents, we are offering a coffee chat in the morning on one date and the afternoon on another date so that you can pick the time and date that best works for your schedule. The coffee chats will be held on Tuesday, October 17th from 4:45 - 5:45 in the library and Thursday, October 26th from 9:15 - 10:15 in Room 200 on the Blue hallway. We do not have childcare for either of these dates so please find alternate activities for your young children and if school age please do the same for the Tuesday evening meeting. If you would like to purchase the book Mindsets for Parents-Strategies to Encourage Growth Mindsets in Kids, please do so. I will not cover the whole book in our two studies but it is a great resource for parents in helping your children increase their effort, hard work, and perseverance to tackle difficult tasks/subjects. I look forward to working with you!

Our Part II coffee chats on Mindsets will be on Wednesday, November 15th from 9:15 - 10:15 in Room 200 on the Blue hallway and on November 28th from 4:45 - 5:45 in the library.

In order to have an idea of who will be attending the coffee chats so that I am prepared with enough material, I am asking that you sign up on the excel form that is linked below. You only need to sign up for one coffee chat in October for Part I and one coffee chat in November for Part II.

Sign Up for Coffee Chats

Thank you!

Cindy Tesreau, Principal