November 2015 Column

 Conversation regarding PARCC results has led to some interesting meetings with community members as well as staff of HMS.  The end results are similar with different perspectives on a root cause.  Once placed side by side, the recommendations appear to be congruent.

 In order to achieve excellence you must expect excellence.  HMS has to step up to the demands and rigors required of Common Core State Standards and PARCC assessment.  In order to be considered proficient, the test requires students to not only provide an answer but explain their path to achieving that answer, thus a deeper understanding of the subject matter.

 Grade inflation is a common occurrence across public schools in America.  It appears the acceptable letter grade is a B or even an A when in reality most students are average (C).  The participatory medal mentality has created an unrealistic expectation from parents for their children.

 The PARCC results will be an eye opener when individual results are available.  HMS’ Dr. Suchint Sarangarm performed a correlation of As and Bs to proficiency on the PARCC.  In order to be considered proficient on the PARCC test a student must score a 4 or 5. An example of the correlation is seventh grade Language Arts.  While 64 percent of our students received an A or B for their spring 2015 semester grade, only 26 percent achieved proficiency. There will never be a true one-to-one correlation, because standardized testing does not take into account grades for homework, class participation, daily quizzes etc. But there should be a workable percentage in the middle that connects classroom performance to a standardized test.  Although I use the PARCC in this example, we see similar results on our Advanced Placement scores as well as our ACT scores. Delving deeper into the statistics, Sarangarm determined that students who received a C or lower had a two-to-six percent chance of achieving proficiency on the PARCC assessment.

 So now that the elephant in the room is acknowledged, how do we eat it? One bite at a time.  HMS must have higher expectation of our students.  In order to achieve excellence, students must demonstrate that excellence. Homework must be relevant. Classwork must engage the students and press their understanding. Lessons must require critical thinking skills.  In order to achieve an A or B, a student must perform at a higher level.  Grades are not given, they are earned. This does not place all the burden on the students.  Teachers must increase their rigor to meet the demands of the Common Core State Standards.  HMS must ensure students learn problem solving skills rather than rote memory. If we hold ourselves accountable, student performance will increase.  

 As we look to the future, we will discuss policy that aligns with higher standards and expectations.  This may cause students to see a dip in their GPA, but if enforced uniformly, the effect will be students being better prepared for college or career upon graduation. This approach can be backed down to the early elementary grades in which proficiency in Reading by third grade determines academic success for many of our youth.  There will be growing pains, but the end result will be a more qualified graduate with unlimited options. I hope the community will support us in our endeavor to make Hobbs Schools an institution of excellence.
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