Nailing Down Student Achievement

Hammer and Nail - by bitzceltWhat’s the number one goal of Education? Ask almost anyone involved in education and they’ll agree: student achievement. However, while there is a general consensus that student achievement should be the focus of our Education efforts, there are very different views on what exactly student achievement means.

According to Christopher Sessums in a recent article on his blog, the definition of student achievement changes depending on who’s answering:

If the purpose of schooling is student achievement, the question is: what does that look like?

  • To a politician, it looks like statistics.
  • To a school administrator it looks like dollars.
  • To a teacher it boils down to test scores.

And while these generalizations are by no means comprehensive, the general trends run true. Politicians are forever pointing to statistics and standardized tests as measures that their policies (and by extension their administrations) are benefiting schools and students.

Feeling the constant economic pressure of the education system, school administrators are often looking for the most cost effective way to bolster their own school’s “statistics”: better statistical performance equals a bigger budget for the following school year. Finally teachers, feeling pressure to ensure adequate performance on standardized tests, are forced to spend their instructional time “teaching to the test” instead of using class time to teach in innovative, engaging ways.

Sessums suggests that the issue of school reform is best tackled using a “grass-roots” approach, where individual communities are the driving force in improving education- something that is only possible if the community actively participates in the reform process. Furthermore, communities must develop an effective way to provide for program, teacher, and student assessment.

In what ways are the priorities of politicians, administrators and teachers obstacles to improving student achievement? How important is community involvement in the reform process? Lacking a strong community, in what ways can we further the overall goal of increasing student achievement?

  • You’ve hit the nail on the head 🙂 This is a major challenge for the U.S. educational system. Ultimately, all of those things (stats, dollars and test scores) are means to an end — an informed, productive citizenry. Whatever assessment tool we use, it must measure ability and competence, not just knowledge.