Sometimes it is hard for me to understand what the decision makers are thinking when decisions are made. One recent decision really has me scratching my head.
Our county has put a lot of eggs in one basket. The basket is a computer program called iReady. Not only is it being used for progress monitoring in Reading and Math but also will be used this year to monitor many teachers' progress with their students. That score along with a teacher's evaluation and professional development plan will be used to decide if a teacher is "highly effective" and theoretically will eventually be linked to teacher pay, so... this computer program becomes pretty important. I don't really think the program was ever designed to be used in this way, but that's probably a different blog!
As I have been working on rewriting assessments with some of my first grade peers, we have been trying to align test questions with what we anticipate will be on the state's FSA (state's high stake assessment), our curriculum, and this iReady computer program - all things with accountability attached. It is impossible to see an alignment.
Recently the county gave us iReady "cut" scores to make decisions. If a child received below a certain cut score they were to be administered a DAR, an instrument that breaks down reading skills in simpler parts. This assessment allows a teacher to pinpoint exactly what the problem might be so that interventions might be targeted - a sound goal - but the cut score is too high (although nobody is asking teachers!) In my class 22 of 35 students, 63%, were identified as needing this extra assessment which also assumes extra intervention is needed. Fourteen of those 22 are reading at the level expected for this time of year according to the DRA (a long used and reliable measure of reading levels) and 19 are making "Satisfactory" in Reading this nine weeks on their report cards (6 have S+ and 3 have E's!) This is common across our grade level. According to this cut score, I would have well over half of the students in my class in need of extra intervention, Tier 2. Really?
Is it really necessary for me to spend about three weeks of reading instructional time to give these students a test that will tell me nothing? Is it necessary for me to spend time each week giving these students Tier 2 intervention when they don't need it, so that I don't have enough time to provide the intensive intervention where it is really needed? Maybe the decision makers will figure out the problem... eventually... after all the instructional time has been wasted? I can only scratch my head and ask, "What are they thinking?"