Greetings fellow citizens:
Here we are in the middle of the month of May, and our students have been taking tests required by the state for individual performance assessments. Naturally, we all want our children and our schools to perform to the highest levels possible.
Reality is that these tests—and any tests—cannot give us a full and clear picture of where we are at with the education of our children. These tests are designed to first and foremost give a snapshot of how a given child is performing on that day, finding out where that child is strong or weak in knowledge and skills. While these tests are not designed to assess the performance of schools as a whole; we can use the aggregate test results to give us some useful comparisons with other schools and other districts.
Children learn at different rates and in different ways, and learn things differently than and from each other. No two children are the same or will “test” the same no matter how standardized the testing might be.
Still, these state required tests do help teachers and schools to identify areas of strength and weakness in children’s learning so that teaching opportunities can be better molded to each child. Testing, for this reason if no other, can be very useful to schools, and ultimately to each child taking the tests.
In today’s society many of us have become caught up in school reform ideas that are, unfortunately, based largely on the perception that our schools are failing; this has led to more and more testing to assess where we are in educating our children.
Are we perhaps testing our children too much? Are we perhaps caught up in a spiral of overemphasizing testing results so that we are now “teaching to the test” instead of teaching our children?
These are legitimate questions to ask, and the implications of some of the answers are not always comfortable to find out. Nevertheless, we must still teach our children as best we can, and try to give them every opportunity to succeed in education, so they may better succeed in life.
Here in the North Mason School District, we aim to do the best we can with all of the resources we have in order to educate our children as fully as possible—not just to “teach to the test,” but to emphasize the much larger realm of education for each child that includes the traditional reading, writing, and arithmetic along with physical health, emotional maturity, artistic expression, music, drama, and a range of other educational and growth opportunities. It is the whole child that we all must be cognizant of, not just a few pieces.
We need your help, and to a surprising degree we get it—you, our community, have supported us with passage last year of a major school construction bond. Many of you who are parents of our students step up and help with school activities during and after the school day. Many of you without children in the schools do the same. Many of our local businesses and organizations go the extra mile to support our schools with small amounts of funds for specific projects and even general unspecified support. This is what we need and will continue to need more of. My hat is off to those of you that go that extra mile for our children.
Meantime, because it is the middle of May, it is also time to start focusing particularly on celebrations of the achievements of our students who are graduating and moving on to the next adventures of their lives. May they all be successful in whatever ventures they attempt!
Director, District 1