Catching Up. That phrase has been on my mind. By the number of posts and articles, also on a lot of other people’s minds too. I am not going to try to hypothesize what that phrase means to others. Rather I am going to suggest that the phrase, Catching Up, is meaningless to supporting our students.
Maybe that is a touch bold, or harsh or strong. But after the last year we have had, that is how I feel. As I tell students and my own children, how we feel is never wrong. Rather how we act on our feelings can be inappropriate or even wrong.
Catching Up is not a Growth Mindset phrase. If we want students, children, to have a Growth Miindset then we need to not talk about them catching up to contrived expectations. Rather we need to look at how we can support the development of their academics, their social-emotional growth, their opportunities. How are we going to take what has worked from the old normal in education, what worked this past year, and what we have hypothesized should work into a growth mindset framework. How are we going to put what’s best for students’ growth first?
Teachers are not the ones using that phrase. Let me restate that, teachers don’t want to use that phrase. But when standardized testing is still in place, even though some students have not stepped into the school for a year, teachers are made to feel that they need to catch up their students. To catch up to what? To the criteria of the test, a contrived epectation of people not in the classroom, not even in the builiding.
Now before I get administrators yelling at me, I am an administrator. I walk into classes all day, I talk with teachers, students and parents. I am not ok with giving a standardized test to kids who have not been in a school builiding all year. Giving them a test is stressful enough, now you are adding in the stress of walking into the school for the first time. I am having my students take a standardized test this year because we have been in school all year. We did not take them last year and I am looking for new baselines for next year. I am looking to use these scores to inform my teachers where the students are and as a means to plan for their growth. I am in a private school and can look at scores this way. I can let parents know this is how we will use these scores (and truthfully how I always use these scores). This is one part of an overall assessment of growth. That is my key…learning growth.
Not all administrators have the luxury of looking at scores as purely a growth indicator. The districts and state regulations make the use of these tests as criteria for an assortment of policies including moving students on to the next grade level and evaluating teachers, schools, disctricts. But using this snapshot of students is not best practices even in a typical school year, which this year was most defintely not.
So let’s stop using the phrase, Cathcing Up. Let’s use the phrase moving forward. Let’s think with a growthmindset frame. Let’s do the right thing for our students, suppport them as we once again redefine what are effective educational practices.