Saturday, July 20, 2013

What Makes a Student Normal?

Many of you might know, I had the chance to meet with Ohio Governor's Office in November 2012 to discuss my thoughts on the Third Grade Reading Guarantee.  I met with Richard Ross (current State Superintendent of Public Instruction, but at the time Director of 21st Century Technology) and Sarah Dove (Teacher Liaison), in response to a letter I had written, the governor, about adding value to a student's life.  Just thinking about the disconnect I felt between the politicians and education, after leaving that meeting, still makes my blood boil.  Within the last couple of weeks, our local CBS station has done several pieces on the Third Grade Reading Guarantee.  These make my blood boil even more than I thought was possible!! 

Here's one quote, I particularly enjoy, and my response to it: 

“I think that score (390) represents what a normal, average student would be able to perform at the third-grade level,” said Richard Ross, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction." (

My response:  "Normal, average" - really????  I would hate to be a parent, clueless to educational politics, and hear the State Superintendent say this about my child.  Well little Johnny, you scored below a 390 on your reading OAA, I guess you're not normal.  

Here's another video and article about a school that is already holding back students, solely based on their test scores:

I don't even have a response to this, other than calling my dad and asking if I can borrow some of his high blood pressure medication!  

Instead of writing a thoughtful post on the research against retention and test scores, or ideas I have on how to improve accountability, I just want to vent.  The following are all rhetorical questions that I often think about.  I'm sure there are research based answers to most of these questions (actually, I know there are as I've read many of them).  However, I just need to put these questions out there, if hopes that will alleviate some of my pent up frustrations.

1.  How can we measure student growth in an objective way, which addresses the true learning style of each child? 

2.  Is it even possible to measure student growth in an objective way, since so much of their growth (especially in third grade) is based in the areas of creativity, inquiry and love of learning? 

3.  Who are we measuring growth for?  Ourselves, the students, parents, administration, tax payers or politicians?

4.  If we have transparency within our classrooms (to our administrators, parents, community, co-workers) won't student growth be evident?  Or will people take advance of that transparency and use it in a negative way (especially if you try something new and fail)?  

One a final note, here's one way I like to describe testing to measure student growth to parents.  I feel the OAA (Ohio Achievement Assessment)  is like an app.  For example, I have an iPhone and an iPad.  However, not all apps work on both devices.  They might both be apple products, and the app might eventually work on both devices, but right now it doesn't.  The Vine app works great on my iPhone, but when I try to look at Vine videos on my iPad, the picture just freezes.  However, that doesn't mean my iPad is less than "normal or average".  If just means that particular app isn't a great fit for my iPad.  Same with our students and this crazy testing phenomenon we are putting them through.  Some students are like iPhone and they do a great job taking tests, but others are like the iPad and they freeze.  They can do so many wonderful, creativity, inspiring things, but taking tests isn't one of them. Parents, and students, need to understand that testing does NOT determine their child's success in life.  Those numbers should be used to help teachers guide and adjust their instruction, not punish students (or make them feel less than average or normal). 


  1. Normal? Really? That's just not okay.

    1. I was so upset when I heard him say that. He is so out of touch with reality.