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Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

• Jess Langhaim

Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting,
So… get on your way!” 

― Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

Setting goals is a normal part of life and crucial to improvement. We set exercise goals, reading goals, goals to eat more vegetables, goals to check Facebook less often on the weekends, and so on. But in order to set achievable goals, we must first consider where we currently stand and where we want to go.

Jess Blog Post 06-09-14

I recently downloaded a running app to help track my progress (or in some cases, lack thereof). After a couple of days off, the app sent me a message that read, “Let’s work out! You thought this was the perfect time a while back…remember?” After initially taking offense to this bold reminder, I realized that this was an app that knew where I started, where I wanted to go, and it was trying to inspire me to achieve my goals.

States are taking similar approaches in education by letting teachers and school leaders know where they stand, and doing the same for individual schools and districts.

About three weeks ago, New Mexico released the first round of teacher evaluations under their new system, which factors in student outcome data and teacher observations. The previous system, which was based solely on principal evaluations, rated an astonishing 99 percent of teachers as “Effective.” The new system prioritizes actual student learning. With most districts reporting, 76 percent of teachers earned “Effective” or better. Teachers in New Mexico now know if they have earned a rating of Exemplary, Highly Effective, Effective, Minimally Effective, or Ineffective based on the outcomes of their students. They can use this information to set goals to improve and move forward accordingly.

Around the same time New Mexico released teacher evaluations, Maine released their second round of school grades. Maine uses an A-F grading scale as an easy-to-understand, transparent way to measure the progress of their schools and their impact on student learning gains. This year, 93 schools have improved at least one letter grade from their 2013 report card and 121 schools have earned an A or B grade.

In both cases, parents, students, teachers, and the community as a whole are provided with the meaningful information they need to assess their current performance and set the necessary goals for improvement.

If you know where you stand, you know how far you can go.

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…” 
― Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

To learn more about school grades in Maine, check out the Department of Education website.

To learn more about ExcelinEd’s position on Standards and Accountability and Teacher Effectiveness, check out our policy page.

About the author

Jess Langhaim

Jess is the National Advocacy Director for the Foundation for Excellence in Education. Prior to joining the Foundation, Jess worked for a political consulting firm in Nevada on local, state and national campaigns. Prior to that, Jess worked for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Romney for President 2008, the Florida House of Representatives and the Legislative Affairs office of Governor Jeb Bush. Jess is a graduate of Florida State University. In addition to helping coordinate nationwide advocacy efforts, Jess’s portfolio of states includes: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington DC and West Virginia.