Viewpoint: Student successes abound in South Washington County SchoolsStudent test results are just one way of measuring the success of our students.
By: Mark Porter, South Washington County Bulletin
It is spring, and in Minnesota that not only means the restored ability to play golf, the fishing opener and other outdoor activities, but it also means testing season for most of our students.
During the upcoming weeks nearly all of our students will be taking state-required tests as part of the federal law known as “No Child Left Behind.” While these one-time proficiency exams are one way to measure student achievement they are also fraught with limited validity and reliability. That is why our strategic plan, “Pathway to Excellence,” includes multiple measures of student performance: proficiency, growth, college and career readiness, and equity.
The use of multiple measures of student achievement will assure we continue to remain accountable for the learning taking place in our schools, but will also provide a more comprehensive evaluation of student achievement. More importantly, the measures provide an improved database to identify learning gaps and adjustments needed to further assure that all students are learning and improving. We will be anxious to get the final test results to see how effectively we have met the high expectations of our strategic plan with regard to student achievement, and in particular our focused efforts and past success at reducing predictable gaps in student performance. As I said, student test results are just one way of measuring the success of our students. Let me share a couple of other success stories that go well beyond what can be measured in a standardized test.
This spring we will graduate our very first International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma students from Park High School. The rigors of this internationally recognized college preparatory curriculum represents the antithesis of standardized testing with less focus on facts and a greater focus on critical thinking and in-depth analyses. Congratulations to the 16 students who will make up our very first IB Diploma Program graduates.
Extending beyond the classroom, our three high school robotics teams recently competed in the North Star Regional Tournament. The competition organized by Minnesota’s FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) gave students and their mentors six weeks to complete a robot that solved a common problem. The only tools given to participating teams were a standard set of parts and a common set of rules. Developed robots then faced a variety of competitions. More than 60 teams from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Missouri and Illinois participated in the event. East Ridge High School’s “ERRORs” (East Ridge Robotic Ominous Raptors) finished fifth and Park’s “Data Bits” finished 16th.
In another unique academic competition, Woodbury High School students Yemi Ajagbe and Angela Yang participated in the state Poetry Out Loud competition at Minneapolis’ Fitzgerald Theater last month. Angela was runner-up and Yemi earned first place. As the 2012 Minnesota state champion, Yemi will compete in the national Poetry Out Loud competition in Washington, D.C. this May. English Teacher Phil Bratnober serves as the lead teacher to these talented students.
We are also proud of our non-academic accomplishments as well – in particular, our continued success in the arts. Woodbury High School senior Kyra Anderson has received a national silver medal in the 2011-12 Scholastic Art and Writing Awards Celebration for one of her photographs. Krya’s winning piece will be displayed in New York on June 1. Kyra is one of 1,500 students who have been awarded a national medal, with more than 200,000 pieces originally submitted.
Student success is also not limited to our national borders.
As you can easily see, student success in our district is not limited to tests or even classroom pursuits. To truly “ignite a passion for learning” is to have students seek excellence in their learning wherever they might be and whatever they might be doing. We are truly proud of our student successes in all regards.
Porter is superintendent of District 833 schools.