When the Focus Is on Results, One Way or Another
The title of Julia Steiny’s Sunday column, “Test results don’t accurately write a school’s story,” doesn’t really reflect the theme of the essay. Sure, she does say that the efforts that Beacon Charter School put forward to improve its reading and writing scores on the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP) would have been well worthwhile and successful even if the students had not performed as well as they actually did. But what Steiny’s really talking about is summed up here:
So the story of Beacon’s reading triumph is twofold. On the one hand, it’s about how the staff treats the kids generally, as illustrated by the TLC they doled out on the test days. Lots of schools resent the statewide testing program and communicate that resentment to the kids. Beacon nurtures its kids.
Secondly, the triumph reflects what a whole-school collaboration can accomplish in a year when every adult is on task.
The kids were given incentives and perks of the sort that a coach might give a successful athletic team — tools for relaxation, the necessary equipment, candy. And the teachers worked together, often outside of their areas of focus, to come up with a school-wide strategy to attack the target (namely, reading and writing scores). In other words, it was what one might expect in an environment in which the success of the students actually and truly comes first and negotiations and work rules for adults is subsidiary.
That’s really the question that our society has to answers: At bottom, are schools meant to educate students or to employ teachers?