We Inspire and Empower students! These words and the logo to the left of them mean something. It’s more than an image or a brand. It stands for who we’ve been…who we are…and what we can continue to become.
Soon the Ohio Department of Education, as required by the Ohio General Assembly, will release district report cards that will provide a laundry list of A – F ratings. If you think that there is a solid research base that indicates such a student measurement system leads to high achievement and growth for students you are mistaken. Simply put, the testing rules and cut scores are created for the purpose of matching the public and policymaker’s expectations for the distribution of the grades. This coupled with the fact that (at least in Ohio) the tests that our district is required to administer to students (we have no choice in this) have changed significantly over the past few years (not only in what they measure, but how they measure it) should give you tremendous pause if you are a student taking them or a parent, a community member or an educator who is left to interpret what they mean.
There was a time in my educational career that I waited like a child on Christmas morning for the testing results to be released so that I could facilitate state test disaggregation sessions with teachers. We would get the test scores that the students produced and we would slice them and dice them trying to glean what we could in order to get better scores. We would look at test maps, which learning indicators were being measured and how our students were performing. We no longer do this…we reject this approach for several reasons. As a district we have consciously elected to disengage in “test prep” and “teaching to the test.” We found that this approach shrinks the curriculum and deprives students and teachers of the defined autonomy that they are granted within the current set of learning standards.
So how are we redefining Student Success? Through a strategic planning process that included feedback from students, parents, community members, educators and others, we have made a conscious choice to reject an accountability system which measures student success largely based on compliance with state testing mandates. It doesn’t tell the whole story and it simply doesn’t work for us. We’re not going Frank Sinatra…we’re going Bulldog–we’re doing it Our Way because we believe that the Ohio Accountability Model deprives our ability to inspire and empower all of our students to achieve their full potential. It goes against our district’s vision and mission and steals our local control. In the words of Kouzes and Posner, we’re Modeling the Way and Enabling Others to Act.
We believe that our charge in Olmsted Falls is to empower and inspire our students and that if you were to ask a student, they would tell you that they don’t feel very inspired or empowered when they take high stakes, state‐ mandated assessments. So…our challenge is to determine how to meet our charge within the “legislative policy box” that we have been forced into, when the way or the path to lead the charge and meet the challenge set before us is, currently and largely, undefined. Our Moonshot Thinking is to work with our colleagues and community to try and figure out how we can be inspiring and empowering to students; foster innovation and creativity within the instructional environment and provide the comprehensive, whole-child, Triple A experience that has been our district’s legacy.
As we approach the first full month of school, we will soon be releasing a Quality Profile that will relay Student Success information to our community as a way to demonstrate that we are fulfilling the district mission and vision that has been formulated and supported by our community. Please be on the look out for that information.
Thanks for listening.