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Career Questions: Test Results

Q:  Every year when the state test results come in, our principal calls a faculty meeting and posts everyone’s results on the screen.  Of course, classes aren’t identified by each teacher’s name, but it’s not hard to tell which class is whose.  There’s no opportunity beforehand to see the results individually before they are posted for everyone to see. 

Many of us are resentful that one year’s test results can make any teacher look bad.  And there are lots of reasons for poor test scores – kids that move in a week before the tests, a particularly low achieving group one year, illness – you name it.  We’re not afraid of looking at the data, but this is painful for everyone whether your class has scored well or poorly.

A:  While schools should be looking at data, revealing test results this way is similar to a public shaming.  A faculty meeting like this engenders resentment, not a desire for improvement.  There are better ways of sharing data.

ScarletLetter  I suggest that a small and respected faculty group meet with your principal and suggest that a committee be formed to examine test data, to track it over the last few years, to focus on item analysis, and to make suggestions regarding curriculum changes.  Individual teachers should be given test results to review themselves.  The committee should present school-wide data and trends to the faculty so that you can see the progress you’re making as a school and then set target goals. 

Your experiences illustrates why teachers are often mistrustful of data.  Data is supposed to be helpful feedback for improvement.  When districts use it as a hammer, it ceases to be useful.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Practical Leadership are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.