Monday, September 03, 2007

Test Scores and Professional Development

Two postings are itching at my brain this afternoon. One, from David Warlick, talks about the importance of teacher's getting up to speed with technology in the 21st century. The other, from Karl Fisch, talks about test scores and what we look for in the schools we send our children to. For me, these two postings have many connections.

When Karl talks about test scores as a predictor of school quality I reflect back to the role I'm currently playing in my school district with data analysis. As the person who gathers the test scores, breaks them down by building and then by state standards and performance indicators, I see the trends in performance for all the buildings in which I function as an instructional technology specialist. But, I've also had the opportunity to sit with those teachers and listen to their discussions about various aspects of the test and why their students did or did not handle a particular skill or question well. I hear them talk about the learning goals designated for each question and then their discussion about the teaching strategies they have used or need to use more specifically in order to meet those goals. Our teachers are really focusing on their practice and what they need to adjust in order for students to improve their achievement.

What's missing from the discussion is the role of technology in helping students to develop skills. I'm not just talking about the skills needed to be successful on the test. What the scores are showing us consistently is that our students have difficulty with questions that involve higher level thinking and broad background knowledge. And, what recent history is showing me is that we don't provide enough teacher training in the instructional use of technology. Yes...I still hear the "digital immigrant" excuse - "the kids know more than I do", "I have too many things to do now as it is" and others. But, I don't really see this as an excuse. I see it more as an indicator of our lack of attention to teacher training. If we want to improve student achievement, we need to turn our focus to producing some concrete applications for technology tools supported by strong instructional practices so that teachers begin to see connections between tools, instruction and student learning. The more we work on those connections, the more successful we'll be in bringing our teachers into a more active role in preparing students for the 21st century.

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1 comment:

Terri Lieberman said...

As I read about your experiences with teachers and technology I am awed by how similar our experiences are. As a "technology coach" I hear many of the same excuses for not using technology as a tool for learning and enhancing student achievement.It reminds me of a story I once heard about electricity. A small Missouri town finally had received access to electricy in the early 1900's, but many people in the town opted not to make the transition because they had always "done it that way". Change can be very difficult for some. I agree that education is the answer, not training. There is a big difference between the two.