These were just some of the topics discussed in “The Atlanta Public Schools Story, High Stakes Testing, Poverty and Race: A Cautionary Tale.” I want to thank LaRuth Gray for effectively moderating some challenging topics for our colleagues.
This is much more complex than what appeared in the headlines across the country when the story initially broke, and hearing first-hand accounts and analysis shines a light on some of the more negative and nefarious aspects of federal and state test-based accountability.
In the Milford Public Schools we are working with a number of districts across Massachusetts to broaden how school quality is measured. Beyond testing, we are looking at attendance rates; parent, student, and faculty feedback; performance assessments; access to high-level courses (honors, AP, Early College); access to arts and extracurricular activities; and several other measures and metrics. Not surprisingly, we are doing very well in some areas and need to focus on other areas, which makes us very similar to every school district in the country.
Districts and schools are complex organizations that cannot effectively be boiled down to a test score or a single grade. We all are, at times, painfully aware that schools in America exist in the real world and are impacted by many forces and factors that drive funding, who goes to a particular school and who does not, and how schools are measured and perceived. I am hopeful based on the comments of many of my colleagues in the room (and outside of the room) that work is being done to improve access, fight for equity, and support greater opportunities for all of our students.
I want to acknowledge the Massachusetts legislature, the Massachusetts Department of Education, the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents, and many other advocates for helping to pass the Student Opportunity Act, which will benefit districts in Massachusetts like mine where we have a growing population of students living in poverty and a significant increase in English learners. This additional funding from the state will provide needed teachers, counselors, and support services to increase long-term positive outcomes for all of our students and about 30 other similar districts across the state. These are important conversations that we need to have more often at the national level and at home.