This past week has offered many opportunities to promote critical discussions particularly around the need for assessment in our schools.
It is often regarded as a work of magic whereby an assessment by a reading specialist and a psychologist offer all the answers for the school requesting these. We have had to have those critical discussions around limited resources in people and time in this day and age of fiscal restraint. These conversations are not comfortable but necessary and while I am focused on the time and energy of my staff to complete assessments only during the daylight (unfortunately they have to sleep sometime!), I am cognizant of the urgency felt by the school.
However, just putting these facts out there causes school staff to reflect on the purpose of a referral. Why do we want this information? If we are programming for students and have had an assessment in the past, why is it necessary to do another one? Do we need this referral for district requirements (I get this one!) or do we just think things will be that dramatically different?
From a growth mindset, I realize we may need an updated understanding of our students, but I believe a teacher should have a great handle on that. I do realize that our current funding model causes us to have to assess a student repeatedly and I look forward to the day when we will empower (or train, if you prefer) teachers to complete level B assessments purely for programming purposes. If the teacher understood the tool and could complete an assessment, that would give her/him a greater understanding of what part of academics a student was struggling with. Rather than relying on someone who does not know that student to complete such an assessment.
But the bottom line is very few people to do the vast amount of work that is needed or wanted by schools.
But I digress. . .
Perhaps the focus should be on the critical conversations that we need to have at the government table about how we fund schools to meet the needs of students included in our classrooms.
With My New Team
On my own team this year, I am working to create a space where we can disagree or staff can suggest what changes I need to make to create a culture where it is safe to take risks and perhaps experience failure. WE are creating a culture of dialogue; comfortable or uncomfortable but open communication. An example would be our schedule of team meetings. Staff were divided in teams and met once per month. This structure was inherited and not really working for anyone (not me for sure). So at our last meeting, we put it on the table for discussion and came up with a new alternative that, I believe, makes better use of everyone's time. I look forward to more open discussion as we meet monthly all together.