I am a mom of three awesome young adults who were all educated in Florida public schools.
After high school, each child went on to pursue an undergraduate degree at a highly respected university. Today, one is completing law school, another is preparing for med school exams and the third is wrapping up her freshman year in college.
My kids have been able to dream big and achieve their goals because their K-12 schooling prepared them for the challenges – and opportunities – ahead. And I truly believe Florida’s high standards and tests helped drive this success.
Measurement is so important in education. Standards serve as the learning goals for what we expect students to understand at each grade level. As a parent, I needed to know if my children were meeting those goals each year. Using tests to measure my kids’ progress helped us act on their behalf. We were able to team up with their teachers and use this information to make sure they were mastering and exceeding standards at each grade level.
When we measure student progress, it informs parents, teachers and schools. It can expose weaknesses and identify strengths. Unless we know what is working – and what isn’t – we can’t make large-scale progress, like the kind Florida has seen. In recent years, our high school graduation rate for all students has increased significantly; all while raising standards multiple times.
Testing is an important tool to measure progress and quality. Without it, the quality of a student’s education would vary significantly from district to district, town to town, school to school and even classroom to classroom. Our kids deserve the highest-quality education possible. To achieve that, we need to measure progress and make sure schools and teachers are helping students reach their greatest potential.
Accountability in education isn’t a form of punishment. It is an effective way to recognize and support the great teachers and schools in our state because they have a huge impact on student achievement
Our students are the future leaders, innovators and teachers of our nation; we must ensure they are receiving an education that prepares them to face life’s tests. Life is full of them – from drivers’ tests and college entrance exams, to the LSAT and MCAT my kids have recently prepared for. We all need to be able to prove what we know sooner or later. K-12 testing helps prepare students for what is ahead in life.
Adults play an important role in setting the tone for how students approach these exams. Parents and teachers can inspire students by celebrating small victories and encouraging students to do their best each step of the way.
There are plenty of opportunities for students to show what they know. For example, short term progress in spelling and math fluency can make a student feel more confident. By making the immediate goal clear and suggesting fun ways to accomplish it, a student can see progress and experience success.
Above all, we need to make sure our actions reflect what is best for our children.
One way to do this is to have a clear, thoughtful plan to help our kids get the most out of an education. But a plan is futile without measurement and accountability.
We can, and must, make sure testing is intentional, relevant and based on high expectations.
Too many tests can distract from the ultimate goal of learning. Which is why it’s encouraging to see Florida working to ensure the tests we give students improve learning.
Florida parents, teachers and the public rely on student learning data to make decisions that assist students in reaching their highest potential. I hope for the sake of our future that measurement always remains a part of education in our state.
Janet Bell of Weston, Fla. is the mother of three Florida public school graduates.