I, like many other teachers, believe that assessment should be directly aligned to the teaching and learning in your classroom. Even during our current era of high stakes assessment, I still believed. For the past ten years, each time the infamous “countdown” to AIMS clock would begin-I would shudder. Action plans designed for the final push before AIMS would turn my stomach. Fundamentally, I could never understand the need to turn into a test prep factory if we were living and breathing standards based instruction.
And, now it is 2014. Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards have shifted instructional practice from kindergarten to eighth grade. Students are speaking, listening, explaining, justifying, writing-THINKING. And, now it is time for AIMS. All of a sudden, I hear the countdown clock. All of sudden, I am wondering where all the test prep materials are stored. All of sudden, I am facilitating meetings where the objective is to analyze the old Arizona Standards and write action plans based on that analysis. I am preaching to teachers to prepare for AIMS.
It’s 2014 and there’s a disconnect between the standards that have infused our school, and the standards on our high stakes assessment. Ideally, we should be able to ignore the countdown clock and toss the test prep materials into the recycle bin. The reality is our disconnected high stakes assessment poses a connection to a teacher’s value that is a little too close for comfort. Omit the AIMS prep, risk low AIMS scores, achieve low AIMS scores, risk a “value-added” score that results in a low teacher rating which earns a Developing teacher label. An entire school with low AIMS scores might just earn a failing grade for their school. A banner displaying a “D or F” might just cause a mass exodus of families. A mass exodus of families may just leave an empty school.
Now, perhaps I am being dramatic with my cause and effect scenario. Perhaps I need to believe that one day this reality will be a distant memory. One day our high stakes assessment will be aligned to the teaching and learning that occurs in our classrooms.