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Rigor and Relevance

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Rigor and Relevance are the mantra of today’s education.  Schools have received clear communication from the Indiana Department of Education our new ISTEP + test will be a more rigorous test.  The test will focus on our new standards along with the federal mandate for college and career readiness.   It will ask the students to pick multiple correct answers, solve complicated multi-step problems, provide examples from what they read, and form opinions based on facts in the sample readings.  We know there will be a slow process to integrate more and more technology enhanced questions into the test.  Eventually through these technology enhanced questions students will be able to demonstrate skill and ability in creating specific work or products within the testing sessions. 

According to a College and Career Readiness Standards presentation to the State Board of Education, College and Career Readiness means, “The individual has the knowledge, skills, and abilities to succeed in post-secondary education and economically-viable career opportunities.”   This definition leads to the idea student feedback and documentation of readiness will require more than just nine out of ten on a subject area test.

As I analyze this definition, the words “skills” and “abilities” stand out.  In the past standards primarily measured knowledge alone.  I asked our team at Carroll if we provide feedback to students and parents on skills and abilities.   What skills and abilities are needed to be successful: process skills, writing skills, problem solving skills, social skills, or technology abilities?  I am interested in measuring one that influences all the rest… resiliency.   We have had many discussions on what it takes to tackle difficult problems.  Having background knowledge about the problem is not enough.  The students need to be able to push through the difficult problems.  Education researchers such as Dr. Joseph Renzulli  from the University of Connecticut  label this as task commitment.    In order to work on something which is difficult to solve a student or a person needs a certain amount of “stick-with-it-ness”.    This is a skill all future employers desire too.

Our analysis of the most recent ISTEP tests show students across the state are skipping or not completing the more difficult applied skills or essay questions.   There were multiple questions on the 8th grade ISTEP+ test in 2014 where thirty-one to forty-four percent of the students across the state scored a zero out of a possible three points.  A zero means the student didn’t attempt the problem or showed little evidence of attempting to solve the problem.    The students are not demonstrating high ability or skills in task completion. 

Why is this?  Perhaps maturity, lack of background knowledge, or time limits of the test?  That is what we want to find out.  Tests of knowledge will not show this.  I contend we will need to start giving students more feedback about their resiliency or ability to show task commitment.  Figuring out how to measure it and provide feedback are the initial challenge.   Teaching students more about a concept and building their background knowledge is not enough.  The students have to be forced to use the knowledge and apply it in multiple real world problems.  Once students are constantly challenged with more difficult tasks, we can start to measure task commitment and provide concrete feedback.   In order to achieve individual college and career readiness students will require more robust feedback than just documenting knowledge of a subject.   This will also support students as they transition to more and more rigorous curriculum.
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Guest Tuesday, 25 September 2018

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