Under Pressure

Recently I had a discussion with several principals from several different states…all in different sizes of schools/districts and varying demographics.  Despite our differences we all had one common concern…test scores.  Not on how to increase them (we’ve had that conversation enough times), but how to stop the constant pressure of having to raise them.  We admired the courageous leadership the Hudson ISD Superintendent, Mary Ann Whiteker has displayed to not focus on “the test” and even took down their school banners that flaunted their exemplary results (read more in her vision post).

This was a refreshing conversation for me, yet I still feel the pressure. top Why? Because our school does not have the exemplary test scores to be able to relieve that pressure.  Because a nearby school district uses our test score data as a comparison for why they are better.  Because a realtor selling a home in our district struggles to do so, because home buyers look at test scores.  Because I refuse to require our teachers to “drill and kill” with test prep.  Because as the leader I feel responsible for everything.  It is an overwhelming pressure.

I have had the pleasure of leading our school for six years now.  I can tell you so much about our amazing students and staff that test data could never show.  I can tell you how much our staff care about our students; how many of them purchase snacks and clothing items for those that need them frequently.  I can tell you how focused our teachers are on students’ literacy/math skills and have individual goal-setting conferences with students so that they have ownership of their learning.  I can tell you about the amazing tech skills our students have with their iPads and how engaged they are in fun learning each and every day.  I can tell you how much our students love to read, because they have choice in their reading during Daily 5 time.  I can tell you how kind and caring our students are for each other.  I can tell you that my own children attend my school, because I feel it is the best school they could attend.

But nobody gets to see that in one test score, so the pressure is still there.




This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. bigtimeliteracy

    I am a Literacy Coach outside of Chicago and had started my principal’s certificate… and this is a really big part of the reason I decided to end my work on that degree (for now, anyways). The testing demands and the politics surrounding all the test scores and the pressure – it’s just too far out of hand, imo. I actually just started following the BATs, not sure if you’ve heard about them, and not that I align with every detail they talk about, but a good group to look into. You can read some information about them on a blog post I wrote in April. I left the link below.

    anyways, I understand and I feel the same way you do about all those things that tests don’t measure! Thank you for sharing – I’m glad that there are school leaders out there who look to and value all the authentic learning that happens every day in our schools….and not just what the tests say!


  2. Melissa Messersmith

    As long as the state requires the standardized testing no one will ever see that one test score. We can have the most caring staff,student body,and support staff around, but that will never show up in a test score. Students hurry through a test or don’t read to the end of the computer screen and that will not show what they know. The state will never see what we see in the classroom in a standardized test.

  3. Wendy Moore

    Jessica….from one principal to another…I’m right there with you! I admire you for focusing on the things that are truly important…the kids! I believe when you do that, the test scores will follow. Lead on!

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