A Curriculum Change with Merit
You may have read that North Smithfield students have been making significant gains:
In a single year, the school’s test scores jumped more than 20 percentage points in reading — the largest improvement in the state — and more than 9 percentage points in math.
Only Barrington, East Greenwich and Jamestown — the state’s highest-performing and wealthiest districts — can boast higher proficiency rates in reading than North Smithfield’s 88 percent.
And the school’s improved math proficiency — 69 percent — places it in the top quarter of Rhode Island’s 57 middle schools, according to the most recent round of state test scores that were released on Wednesday.
Note especially this:
“We saw that writing was our weakest area, so we decided to concentrate on that,” Arnold said. “We also felt that writing is global — it’s required in every subject now. Math, science, social studies. So we felt like it could make the most difference.”
That’s precisely the sort of strategy that I suggested could be tied to some sort of merit pay system, when the topic came up in Tiverton:
Sure, some component would have to be related to students’ actual performance. But other components could be tied to district targets. For example, one argument that I hear all the time is that parents simply aren’t sufficiently involved, so perhaps some component of the evaluation and merit increase could kick in for teachers who do something to bridge that divide. A perfect example: retired music teacher (and TCC member) Anne Parker spoke of her experience doing extra work with a parent/student choir. Or, if a target area is math, a shop teacher could prove merit by integrating lessons with the students’ math classes, thus improving immediate understanding while illustrating the practical utility of an abstract subject.