In the spring of 2015, students in grades 3-10 across the state of Alaska took a new assessment called the Alaska Measures of Progress (AMP). AMP replaced the Standards Based Assessments (SBA). Since this was the first year of the AMP test, scores are delayed due to the State of Alaska’s standard setting process to determine the range of scores for each level of achievement. Scores are expected in October after the process of standard setting is complete. According to the state, AMP scores will be more timely in future years of AMP administration.
The professional journals for educators this time of the year are swamped with recommendations for the start of school and how important it is to set the tone, to inspire, to steer the ship, and to, well, to do whatever seems to be current in the educational buzz world.
One article that really interested me was titled in urgent bold lettering “6 Must-Have Apps for Teachers' Back-to-School Toolkit.”
Well, I am sure that Apps are important, and they are probably pretty good things for teachers to have, however I am not convinced they are “must haves.”
Other current events in education addressed the newest, latest, and greatest educational trends. Maybe you heard of The Five Big Things that Work? It was a featured show on NPR radio.
The Five Big Things are a list from John Hattie, who directs the Melbourne Education Research Institute at the University of Melbourne, Australia. His idea is to study the groups of studies with a single variable. He studies the studies and does metadata analysis to figure out what works and what does not.
Under the “doesn’t work” topics are tests designed to measure Achievement Standards. Setting tests at cut scores, according to Hattie’s research, is counterproductive. As an alternative, he suggests a focus on growth and achievement for each student no matter where they start.
How refreshing, research that says quality instruction should focus on each student and monitor his or her growth! That is what we have been doing with RtI, Response to Intervention, for the last seven years. I am glad that metadata analysis has recognized our efforts and confirmed what we know - frequent monitoring of an individual student’s achievement is a better method of providing student growth than annual cut score standardized testing.
This is what I know- plenty of the educational buzzword world does NOT improve student achievement. What I think is the critical element to the whole picture is our teaching staff. Teachers, paraprofessionals, and building administration are the most important ingredients concerning student achievement! There is a poster in my office that helps keep a focus on what should be done on any given day;
“Our greatest contribution is to be sure there is a teacher in every classroom who cares that every student, every day, learns and grows and feels like a real human being.” Donald O’Clifton
Right below that poster is a position statement by Dr. Harry Wong. Dr. Wong is a well-known author credited with transforming hundreds of schools. The paper is titled; “There is Only One Way to Improve Student Achievement.”
He goes on to clarify; ”There is only one way to obtain student achievement and the research is very specific. It is the teacher and what the teacher knows and can do that is the determining factor with student achievement.”
When we get sidetracked from that work, when we are NOT pursuing the items that eventually provide teachers with the support needed to provide a quality atmosphere in each classroom is time that is wasted.
That all wraps around to this; Teachers (I use this term to include the entire school staff), in their role as teacher, support staff, coach, activity advisor, facilities management, facilities preparation; are the essential element for student achievement.
The atmosphere created in a classroom, in the halls, around the building, on our sports fields, in academic competition, and anywhere teaching takes place is critical to education. A student being immersed in the type of environment where they experience their intrinsic value as a human being is what matters. Creating that environment is an art.
What does it take to foster an environment? Positive and on-going communications between teacher and parent play a large part in creating that embrace of learning. Please take a look at our Strategic Plan for more details.
We encourage parents to be active participants in their child’s education. Frequent communications with your child’s teacher is very helpful. Monitoring your child’s progress on PowerSchool, follow programs on the school website, check on the District webpage for notices, visit our Facebook page for updates, that will keep you in-tune with your child’s progress and aware of up-coming events.
Also, you may wish to sign up for FlashAlert to be informed of any emergency actions. An annual renewal is required to keep your notices coming. The signup link is on the District webpage.
The 2015-2016 school year promises to be exciting and engaging. Keep in contact with us, stay involved and let us know how we are doing!
-Superintendent Robert Boyle
Enrolling your child in school is easy and exciting. Please click here to see our enrollment checklist to help registar your student in school. All school enrollment packets are provided at the school level. Visit your school of choice to enroll your students. School Offices open August 13, 2015.
Note: If you are updating your mailing address or name change you will need to request a change of address form from Janice Bersvendsen at 907-247-2122 or email her at Janice.Bersvendsen@k21schools.org this is due to payroll policy.