July 2022 - Gwynetta Gittens

July 2022 - Gwynetta Gittens
Posted on 07/11/2022
July 2022 - Gwynetta Gittens

The buzz in Lee County education is about Florida Standards Assessment (FSA) scores. Parents are getting emails and texts that the scores are out; it’s in the news. We hear words like Proficiency, school grades and how well students are doing at a particular school. We hear Progress Monitoring and Learning Gains. Do you understand the major role of Learning Gains and how the measure of Learning Gains is more important than all of the above? As a teacher I remember dreading the FSA scores being released. My entire career would be based on how well my students did, even the ones that “Christmas tree” the test. Parents will judge school choice on the same scores. Let’s take a moment to put it all into perspective.

What is FSA? It is a standardized test that measures our students’ proficiency in Reading, Writing and Mathematics. Yes, we still teach the basics; “Reading, Writing and Arithmetic.” Up until this year FSA was a single, high stakes test, which means you get one chance a year to do it. I think we focused more on the final score than the journey to get the scores. Progress Monitoring is a method of checking along the way and changing tactics when necessary, not waiting until the end when time has run out.

Here is and example of Learning Gains. What if your job was to teach students to run a 100-meter race? The students are all different. They are told to go to the starting line, but one is just sitting on the ground, one is stretching, one is running place, lifting their legs very high and one doesn’t know where the starting line is. Compare our runners to student academic levels 1-5. A Level 1 reader has the most difficulty reading, like our timid runner that is sitting on the ground or the one that doesn’t know where to start. Level 3-4-5 proficient readers compare to our runners who are already jogging in place, and used to running every day.

Each day our student runners get better, run farther and are more confident because dedicated teachers are coaching and teaching them ways to achieve. Our runners practice, teachers/coaches measure their progress and make training adjustments. (Progress Monitoring) In the end, the level 3’s, 4’s and 5’s finished the 100-meters. Level 1’s; our sitters, made it to 50 meters halfway, and our level 2’s learned to make it to 75 meters. Which students learned and achieved? All of them! We can’t forget that some teams had 80% level 1-2 runners sitting on the ground and looking for the starting line. Which schools and teachers had to work harder to get students to 50, 75 and 100 meters? Which is the Best school? All of them!

Thank you to the Governor and legislators for recognizing the importance of Progress Monitoring compared to Proficiency. With their help the race is changing. All of our students are moving, and learning just at different rates. Schools, administrators, teachers or a district should be judged on the whole story, the whole struggle and all the hard work it takes help students achieve.

Until high school graduation, the hard work, teaching, strategies and learning will continue. We want to move the 50 and 75-meter students to 100 meters and beyond. Isn’t that our goal anyway, to…”Ensure each student achieves their HIGHEST PERSONAL POTENTIAL?”

Congratulations to the 100-meter runners and to the 50 and 75-meter runners keep running and learning and we are here to help you finish the race.

Gwynetta Gittens, District 5