Why join the student testing bandwagon?

December 17, 2010
Lydia Dobyns

Lydia Dobyns

At the Fall Leadership Summit, held for all directors leading schools in the New Tech Network, we were asked “Why is NTN joining the student testing bandwagon?” Our answer was that NTN isn’t “joining” the outcomes bandwagon so much as pushing ourselves to add more substance to how we measure student success. NTN has always been on the outcomes bandwagon. From the beginning our goal has been to demonstrate and measure the success of the NTN model.

We started with simple but important metrics such as changes in student attendance. We learned that counting the number of students who show up to school every day, because they say they are excited about learning and find class relevant are significant indicators that the NTN model is working. We also focused on graduation rates and post-secondary college and career paths. We knew that if we didn’t have these basic data points, our model would not be easily embraced in new communities, and we want to foster strong Network growth.

Those of us working in NTN schools know the model works. We also understand the enormous amount of time, work and commitment it takes to create a high school experience that is based on a vibrant student-centric learning community to prepare teenagers for success in life. Our heightened awareness around student outcomes is also due to the national discourse surrounding student success and teacher effectiveness.

So back to that bandwagon question. The sooner stakeholders in education reform learn to appreciate and welcome this insistence to measure student impact, the faster we can implement meaningful sustained change. Data doesn’t have to be a dirty word, nor does it need to be our enemy. We’re not suggesting standardized test scores are the “right” and “only” measure. On the contrary, we are saying as long as standardized tests are one of the ways we measure (as required by NCLB) and we also insist on adopting multiple meaningful measures – both qualitative and quantitative. Getting to meaningful measures isn’t going to happen overnight. But all of us engaged in delivering education need to be willing to meet in the middle: let’s unite in our commitment to support young people with meaningful and relevant high school experiences. We need to grab on to success everywhere we can measure it. The NTN model offers exactly that success.

Effective powerful new roles for teachers, administrators and students. Relevant learning integrated with today’s technology platforms. Establishing dynamic student-centric cultures that are based on trust, respect and responsibility. In short, a high school model that works. We know that for school districts to justify the funding needed to start, and sustain a NT school measuring impact is essential. As leaders of the Network, we all have an obligation to collect the data necessary to provide meaningful analysis and assessments that demonstrates student success. We can only succeed when we work together and it starts with accepting the basic premise that accountability and measurements can be allies. Our students and teachers are worth it.