Welcome back to our teacher interview series, where we hear from two Arizona teachers why they support the new tests students are taking that are aligned with higher standards implemented in the classroom over the past few years.
The following interview is with two Arizona teachers: Amanda McAdams, an English Language Arts and Student Government curriculum coordinator and former ELA and government teacher who has been an educator for 14 years, and Kristie Martorelli, a professional development coordinator and reading interventionist co-teacher who has taught numerous grade levels in her 15-year career. Both Amanda and Kristie are Arizona Teachers of the Year, from 2011 and 2012 respectively.
Stand: What do your foresee the biggest thing happening when the results come in and how do you plan to address the potential score drop?
AM: It’s not going to hurt their child; it’s going to help their teachers know where their students are and know what adjustments need to be made in instruction. It’s going to give students an idea of where they are and what extra help they may need. And it will give parents an idea of where their students are – how ready are they for college and career or the next grade level.
KM: As a mom, and as a teacher, we must realize that educating a child is a really, really hard job. You come home as a parent, and, after working or doing whatever you’ve done during the day and being really tired and having 800 other things to do, you take the time to help your children because you want to make sure that they are truly prepared to leave the education system.
And, if we are measuring them in a way that tells us if our children are truly prepared when they’re actually not, then we are all wasting our time. - Kristie Martorelli
That’s our biggest fear as teachers and as parents: that they won’t be really truly ready. I don’t know about other parents, but as a mom, the worst thing I feel like I could do would be to have a false sense that since I did this one thing with my kid, and he got an ‘A’ to think, “OK, he’s great!” and then for him to step into a job and be so stressed out every day because he’s really not prepared, and he’s so far behind his other colleagues that are from other states and other countries that did have the opportunity to prepare in that way.
I want to let parents know that it’s not that we weren’t preparing them before, but now we know that there are different expectations, so we have to make sure that we are giving you…the best toolkit to prepare your child for what they’re going to need. We know that just like when we we’re at our jobs, if you look at your career ten years ago, you were expected to do different things, and you had to grow as a professional, just like our children will have to grow and do different things in the future.
Stand: To you, what is the overall biggest benefit/advantage – the single most important improvement – that the tests contain or will be measuring?
AM: The obvious one is that it’s aligned to new and more rigorous standards. You can’t be assessing students with our old tests that don’t align to the current state standards. Another great thing is the opportunity to be able to compare how our students in Arizona are doing compared to other students across the nation based on similar standards and a similar test that’s assessing those skills. It’ll let us know really and truly, are we competing?
KM: It’s a high enough level of assessment that we can’t just teach to the test. It’s my hope that this will break that cycle that we had been in before, where we had wanted to teach to the test, and now we can just let teachers focus on high quality instruction throughout the year, and the test will take care of itself because of that.
Stand: Finally, what are your hopes for the future of the test/future iterations of the test?
AM: My hope is that teachers will get to be involved in editing and writing items that align to the standards, so that they can take that practice back to their own classrooms. And, that the assessment will grow and adapt based on feedback from multiple parties.
KM: We need our assessment to constantly be reviewed and revised to meet the expectations that I have in the classroom for my students and those of my colleagues. So, I hope that the assessment, although it needs to be comparable from year to year and state to state, will also be looked at in a review process as we look at expectations throughout our society. The test should grow with us in those expectations.
Do you agree or disagree with Kristie and Amanda? Have the teachers’ perspectives given you a new perspective? What did you learn from them? Let us know in the comments!