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NAEP Reading: Down So Long Looks Like Up To Me

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shareasimage 18I've been studying a lot lately. I modeled life-long learning this past year by learning the mac, basic technology and social media, well some. If I am unleashed in Pinterest, I will undoubtedly end up in the vortex, as I have Twitter. I've been having a blast connecting with people I hadn't seen in years, on FB, and doing a unique professional page. 

My assessment of my learning is about a 'C'. I can do the basic things I need to, and ask for help, just like the kiddos. Continual formative asessment. In my case there isn't a summative, I would expect. The internet offered me opportunity to learn from the best professionals around. Unimaginable, with no cell phone or social media I traveled the United States teaching in way over 500 classrooms, hauling my suitcases and a training trunk. 

While Principal, we turned around a high poverty school and had visitors from all over. But we never got the big test scores. It was fomative assessment that carried us through, from our shared hopes and aspirations to digging deep inside ourselves, regaining or discovering our passions and learning to share. By summative standards that school would be in Improvement status today. Only we knew, and the kids.

Right now with mostly positive changes in the laws, this is a perfect time speak out loudly as Dr. King and other great leaders taught us to do. Our actions are sorely needed to make adaptations that are real and substantial, to shift that pendulum back a bit to the middle, at least, and forge ahead for the common good. Time-tested strategies that we know work, within new paradigms of technology and unscripted, genuine developmentally appropriate pedagogy make sense to me. Programs come and go, kids and skills remain the same. ALWAYS have.

Unless we are teachers, teach with teachers, hang out in their rooms or listen to them as a society, teachers are simply going to burn out by January or leave this grand profession. I keep reading about teacher shortages. Today's teacher is the ultimate professional. Principals instill optimism in their collective staffs, lead by modeling and know that the school's culture, climate and morale is the beginning of any foundation for success. 

Lately we've seen pictures of schools physically falling apart. More than 51% of public schoolchildren live in poverty or on the edge. Every teacher has students with special needs of some sort and automatically differentiates instruction, sometimes minute to minute. Teachers feed hungry kids from their desks and buy supplies for their rooms. I never met a Teacher or Principal who didn't take care of their kids way beyond the job description. So I guess that's formative assessment, maybe summative, too.

Common Core expectations, Data-driven instruction (which extended all the way to Read-Alouds) maybe were not in line with classroom reality and years of continual evaluation. I find this ironic, as the purpose of evaluation is to improve, not to prove. And NCLB certainly left a bunch of kids behind. I call these the "gap kids."

NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) remains our Nation's Report Card, regardless of new reform acronyms. It's definitely worth taking a look at the NAEP reading scores, summative assessment. In this case, a solid view of America's schoolkids and an honest look at data which makes sense to us. I hope you study the newest report before any local decisions are made regarding the new ESSA regulations. The challenge is daunting, but more local 'say' and encouraging teachers take the lead and figure out how they can best support each other is best bet.

About Assessment:

  • To be effective assessment for teachers, parents and kids, it has be useful.
  • To be effective assessment for teachers, parents and kids, it has to be reliable and valid.
  • To be effective assessment for teachers, parents and kids, it has to be immediate.

NAEP is not Common Core, but Common Core is NAEP.

Here are NAEP 4th and 8th grade scores. You do the math.

  • 4th: 

Below basic: 31%; Basic: 33%; Proficient: 27%; Advanced: 8%. At or above proficient: 36%. 

  • 8th:

Below basic: 24%; Basic: 41; Proficient: 31%; Advanced: 4%. At or above proficient: 35%.

Take a look at the scores of black children.

  • 4th grade, 18% proficient. 8th grade, 16%.

The good news is overall scores are slightly higher than in '92, for both grades, by about five or six points. Not much. Where did all the money go? Wasn't the goal to level the playing field and bridge the achivement gap? I'm not going to grade that, don't need to. 

I hope you share this post with others. These are strictly my opinions, but trust me, Data walls and Data points are not the way to go. I'd dump nearly all standardized tests, just do a few to get the overall look at school and district progress. For individual kiddos, the best assessment is formative, which teachers know how to do extremely well. They live there with the kids, know every nuance.

Practice makes permanent; it doesn't take a standardized test to get there. NAEP scores are our starting point. The only way is up. Call me hopeful today. Our new goal is simple: help make every child a capable, confident reader. World-class scholars are in the making. We are every bit as good as Finland, maybe better.

Leaving footprints on your reading hearts, Rita




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Modeling the art and craft of teaching reading for 47 years, Mrs. Wirtz taught language arts, speech and reading at all levels preschool-adult, including penal. She served as Pre-school and K-6 Principal. Rita was also a Curriculum Consultant, ESEA, Title I Program Evaluator and literacy trainer. At the university level she taught school administration in the Bilingual Cohort at CSUS and National University, Sacto. Mrs. Wirtz also taught all reading courses for Chapman University for many years in Sacramento and Placerville, Ca., and mentored student teachers. On the national level she was a well known motivational Keynote Speaker and Seminar Leader. Most importantly, Rita walked the talk, teaching with teachers in more than 500 K-12 and special needs classrooms. Rita authored books, publications and Pre- YouTube, videos were filmed by San Diego County Office of Education. Calif. ASCD authored companion book guides, and Calif. school districts correlated her basic skills instruction with State Standards. Mrs. Wirtz' newest book is Reading Champs! Teaching Reading Made Easy, a review of the basic building blocks of English and Reading. Rita is currently teaching in a multi-age, fully incuded preschool, ages 2-8. Find Mrs. Wirtz on Twitter @RitaWirtz, Facebook and website- www.ritawirtz.com.

  • Jon Harper /  @Jonharper70bd
    Jon Harper / @Jonharper70bd Saturday, 20 February 2016

    Very powerful piece Rita! It is amazing what the data tells and doesn't tell. We owe it to our kids to see them than more than just data points. While we continue to struggle to raise their tests scores, they are becoming more and more unhappy. Social and emotional issues have increased to levels I've never seen before in my 20'years in education. Thank you for raising awareness to an issue that is so prevalent.

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