I came across this comical, yet thought-provoking article in the D.C. Washington Post Metro newspaper this morning:
It seems an elementary school principal in Hyattsville, Maryland, has taken to extreme measures to motivate students to perform on standardized tests.
Two years ago, Lewisdale Elementary was placed on the state’s “school improvement” list, meaning that it had failed to meet standards of “adequate yearly progress.” AYP, as it is referred to in education circles, is a construct established under the 2001 congressional No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act that requires each state to set standards for public school accountability, along with timelines for meeting those standards.
When Lewisdale made the grade to improve off the “school improvement” list last year, Principal Glee-Woodard and testing coordinator James Green celebrated by allowing students to submerge them in a dunk tank, carnival-style.
This year, the two adventurous administrators raised the stakes. They encouraged teachers and students to don military fatigues in their
quest to “win the war against the MSA [Maryland School Assessments].” And when the student body did achieve AYP, Glee-Woodard and Green spent an entire day this fall working from the school’s rooftop.
What do you think of these administrators’ approach to school improvement?
At first, I’ll admit I found the playful antics amusing: I’m certainly
all about creative ways to motivate students. Glee-Woodard is probably
the hippest principal on the block! But, in an era of teaching to math
and reading tests, often to the minimization or exclusion of other core
subjects like geography, I can’t help but fear whether their enthusiasm
might be misdirected.
That statement regarding a “war against the MSA” drives it home.
Standards should not be foes to be conquered, but roadmarkers in a
robust educational experience. And learning is not about reaching the
end of the road, it’s about the journey.
Not to get overly philosophical here…I guess my point is that,
while I applaud the efforts of Principal Glee-Woodard and
Coordinator Green, it almost seems too much like a betting proposition.
Like, “We bet you cannot reach AYP, and, if you do, you earn the right to
humiliate us for doubting you.” I’m certain that was not the intention,
but isn’t that kind of the message it sends?
At the very least, I hope they are equally spirited in their celebration of other, non-test-based educational achievements, too.
Why not jump out a plane (the next stunt Green has proposed for the duo) if all students turn in their homework for a week? Or more directly involve students in the party by hosting a massive, schoolwide read-a-thon to celebrate language arts achievements?
What you think?!
Sarah Jane for My Wonderful World
Image courtesy Katherine Frey, Washington Post