by Kayli Laney│Wednesday, May 2nd, 2018
My students just finished our championship week—and I don’t mean for athletics.
This marks the second, and final, week of annual PARCC testing at our rural high school in Reserve, New Mexico. For me, that means that after roughly a dozen hours of test administration—or about two days of our 180 school days—all of my students have conquered their English Language Arts (ELA) PARCC for the year.
I teach freshmen-senior courses, including Advanced Placement. At my school we like to win, and I enjoy coaching my students to victory.
Championship week can be a stressful time for students and teachers. We practice, and we prepare physically and mentally, but we still get butterflies before the big game. That’s how it should be for something important. We want to do our best and show what we’ve learned.
Last week was a chance for my students to show off their hard work. All year long they studied big questions such as, “What is the relationship between censorship and war?” and “What is the American Dream and in what ways is it still relevant?” This has been an awesome “season."
That’s why suggestions of scrapping our state’s assessment system without an alternative already in place —one that satisfies the mandates of federal law—make me incredibly nervous. That some of our state’s leaders, from both political sides, continue to flirt with that idea from the sidelines during championship week disheartens me.
This is a fight for our future, not the least because we’re competing with the quality education that my students’ counterparts in other schools, districts, and states already receive.
No assessment is perfect, and we may need to continue the search for an assessment that best fits the needs of New Mexican students, but PARCC provides teachers like me with valuable insights to better prepare my students for the future and improve my instructional practice. While proficiency-based standards and assessment hold promise, those are largely in piloting mode and not ready to scale up yet.
Nor can we afford to take an indefinite break from collecting student data or holding teachers accountable for providing students with the education they deserve while we search for a replacement. Frustratingly, an air of negativity still surrounds student data, and not just for PARCC. The same held true for the Standards Based Assessment (SBA).
The NMTEACH teacher evaluation system has been deemed punitive by some because it incorporates student data as 35 percent of the calculation. Student data, even when it reveals areas for improvement, does not carry a negative connotation for me. Instead, I view data as a tool that highlights my development and my shared responsibility with my students.
Of course, no data paints the full picture of my efforts or the progress my students make, but assessments are an opportunity to find out what we’ve done well and what we can do better.
I know each of my students has the capacity to change the world. They are innovators, creatives, and activists. They leave my classroom and go into medicine, agriculture, politics, mechanics, business, and, yes, education. My students are much more than numbers, but it is difficult to get to any destination when we don’t know where we are starting, or how fast we’re going.
I cannot afford to lose time guessing what my students need. I want my students to leave school ready to use their talents and knowledge to be our future leaders. In order for that to happen, I need to make smart instructional choices. I need to capitalize on the brief time I have with them. Scrapping our assessment system, jeopardizing funding, and altering our ESSA plan helps none of these.
I ask our state leaders to not press reset on the progress we’ve made. We have the talent to go all the way, and we’re up for the challenge. My team and I are already preparing for next year’s championship week.
Kayli Laney - Teacher in Reserve, NM
Kayli teaches 9th through 11th grade English and AP Language and Composition at Reserve High School, the same school from which she graduated. Kayli serves as a State Ambassador for the New Mexico Teacher Leader Network and is a Teach Plus Policy Fellow.