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The Tradeoff: How The Focus on Test Scores Actually Hurts Our Students

posted on May 28, 2017 by Tony Monfiletto

And How Positive Youth Development Can Help

When I cofounded Amy Biehl High School in 2000, one of the first things I was told was that I was part of a bargain that “traded autonomy for accountability.” This meant that we had control over our budget, hiring, governance, and curriculum – in exchange for high scores on standardized tests. If we didn’t perform, then we would be closed.

 

This tradeoff has become a deal with the devil for many schools in the charter school sector.

The result of a system where success is defined solely by test scores is an undeniable incentive to get rid of students who threaten to undermine a school’s performance. They are known as “no excuses” schools, where orderliness is essential and students who can’t cope with the command and control structure are forced to leave. These schools are more common than you think. In a recent Atlantic Monthly Article, it was reported that charter schools in New York City “represent seven percent of the enrollment and forty percent of the suspensions.”

Schools across the nation have created a model where kids have to adapt to the system rather than the system adapting to them.

There is a growing backlash aimed at charter schools whose commitment to test scores are ultimately damaging low income students. The NAACP has recommended a moratorium on privately managed charter schools as they wrestle with a fundamental question about the purpose of school: can a charter school still be considered successful if the collateral damage it inflicts on the community is greater than the success it produces? While some students are resilient enough to succeed in these schools, others are kicked to the curb by uncompromising discipline policies. It’s a tradeoff that is losing favor with many civic leaders who are rethinking their support for a system that leaves so many children behind and damages the reputation of charter schools across the country.

 It means looking at our students as people and not just standardized test scores.

Schools across the nation have created a model where kids have to adapt to the system rather than the system adapting to them.

The Leadership High School Network (LHSN) is founded on the theory that high levels of learning requires high levels of social and emotional support.  In essence, students can’t learn unless they feel safe to take intellectual risks and that the amount students learn is directly correlated to the positive culture of the school they attend. This means appreciating the assets of young people and not treating them as problems that need to be fixed. It means looking at our students as people and not just standardized test scores. It is a stark contrast to the dominant theory of school reform over the last two decades.

We’re at a watershed moment in Albuquerque.  Our district is recognizing the need for social and emotional support for young people and are trying some new and innovative things.  This work is complemented by a few charter and district run alternative and magnet schools that are hopeful signs for the future.  The Center will highlight their work as part of our Positive Youth Development Tour on October 20.  We will take 100 people on a tour of schools that are dedicated to building school cultures that nurture the talents of students and help them to reach their goals.  These schools are thinking creatively about fostering social and emotional learning that is essential to the future success both of our charter schools and our students.

Please join us in celebrating these schools in learning more about how to better support our students.

CenterforSchoolLeadershipPositiveYouthDevelopment

>> Click here to register

 

 

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