An article in the January 26th edition of the Cleveland Plain Dealer once again re-iterates what those who have been following the Ohio Academic Cliff saga already know:
A) The tests and corresponding accountability measures are about to get much tougher, and
B) Results are going to plummet across the State of Ohio
Ohio's low cut scores to achieve a 'proficient' rating on the accountability tests have created a false sense of student performance for consumers of report card data (i..e. educators and parents).
When the shock of the new system takes place, the knee jerk reaction will be to blame teachers and the institution of schools for the performance woes.
What will count is how educators react to this criticism. Planning right now for how to respond, as well as embracing educational practices that leverage student engagement, will help in equipping to survive this day of academic reckoning.
When your car goes into a skid, you know that you should steer in the opposite direction. However, knowing is one thing. Actually doing this when the moment happens in much tougher.
The same will be true when the new tests and accountability system come online. We know that creating authentic, engaging experiences in the classroom (ones where students have multiple options and pathways for demonstrating mastery) will best position students to perform at high levels on whatever accountability test they take (what I like to refer to as teaching in spite of the accountability system).
The difficulty is that while we know this, the firestorm of criticism that will rain down from the sky on schools will make educators want to turn the steering wheel in the wrong direction (i.e. more test prep, more drill and kill, more whole class standardization, more 'experiences' designed to mirror the 'tests' that drain the life out of education.)
The good news is that we know what is coming, and we have time to prepare for our response. Teaching 'in spite of' and not doubling down on the flawed test prep strategy of the past twenty years will take immense professional courage.
Keep this in mind as you ponder these two options: As choice in education becomes more of a reality every day, students will increasingly have options as to where they want to spend their educational time. Given the choice between a classroom where prepping for the test is the focus or engaging in authentic activities is the focus, which do you think they'll choose?
At the end of the day it is always about so much more than test scores.
Don't let the current accountability climate prevent you from teaching in ways that will allow your students to flourish in an economic climate that demands creative thinkers who are capable of producing original, creative content in the post-industrial world.