Dear Blake Families:
I hope everyone enjoyed a restful weekend and that you have been able to find some time to relax. After such a beautiful past week, it is hard to believe that we may need to learn how to adapt to weather in the 50's this week! I would like to thank everyone for their efforts in making MCAS as smooth as possible, providing a structured and nurturing environment for our students. I also want to acknowledge and thank our staff for their work in making recess a successful and safe experience. It was great to see the different grades outside, taking advantage of the nice weather and blowing off steam. I do believe it is serving our students well.
Walking through the halls this week, I was reminded of the excellent educational environment that has been fostered, established, and supported here at Blake. From both a teacher and student's perspective, MCAS time can be one that induces anxiety and stress, and it is not necessarily the time of year that is always relished. However, in talking with students and staff during the week, I felt a sense of pride - for how we have prepared our students and for the manner in which our students work and strive to reflect the knowledge that has been gained through these assessments. In addition, the juxtaposition of the morning MCAS with the healthy 'recess break' served as an excellent reminder that we are continuing to work to both create and model a sense of balance for our students.
Last weekend I came across a commentary by Kenneth Lopour in Education Week entitled 'The Rising Tide of Data', and I have attached it for your interest as I found it pertinent to the experiences for our students this week. In this editorial, Lopour addresses the topic of standardized tests and the importance of using the collected data in a thoughtful manner, in order to effectively employ data-driven decision making -- "We need to have conversations about the reason for the data collection. It cannot be enough to simply collect numbers." The MCAS tests are a valuable tool, indeed, and they do serve as one measure of a student's educational knowledge; however, we need to be sure that we are continually pushing ourselves to use this information in a thoughtful manner, always keeping in mind the other measures of a student's understanding (performance-based assessments, authentic learning experiences, observational/experiential data, etc.). The goal is not about the raising of test scores, but rather the improvement and accurate demonstration of a student's growth and comprehension. Lopour ends his commentary by encouraging educators to use the data as a tool, but to keep perspective in mind: "As educators, we need to acknowledge that numbers should be a guide, not the sole determinant in our classrooms. We must not forget that teaching is an art as much as it is a science." I could not agree more.
'Balance' is a noble goal, and we will continue to use these data-based tools to analyze programming, having honest conversations about the 'good and the bad', identifying the measures we need to keep, and those that we need to improve. We will strive to emphasize and value the art in our teaching, while we look for new ways to enhance the learning and educational environment of our students.
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Best wishes for a great week.
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