Brian Whiston meets Jamie Vollmer

Making Moves


Many of you have heard about the move made yesterday as the Michigan House panel voted to eliminate the M-STEP (standardized test in Michigan).  Much of these moves are being made based on the thinking and influence of  new state superintendent, Brian Whiston.

While this certainly doesn’t mean the end of standardized testing in Michigan, I do believe it is a strong step in the right direction.  The experience last year of having students take the M-STEP that took  close to 10 hours, with the results given some 7 months later, was a calamity and an indictment on standardized testing as a whole.  The first step taken this summer to reduce the time on the test was a good start.  The news this week that it may eliminated entirely, was another victory for students and educators.

I’ve been fortunate enough to hear Mr. Whiston speak on this topic and read many other quotes and thoughts from him.  He wants to move to a test given multiple times a year, with less time spent, and data readily available to staff and parents.  We are fortunate to have someone leading education in this state that is realistic, so tied to current teaching and learning in schools, and willing to fight for his vision and beliefs of education in this state.  He “gets it.”  Because he does, he is able to redirect and support some of our friends in Lansing who simply don’t.

It Is About Student Learning

Teachers, administrators, schools, and districts do not fear being evaluated or measured based on student learning.  Quite the contrary.  We are upset because we know the snapshot of standardized testing is not the best way to measure student learning.  Sports analogies always seem to help me put it into perspective…the Michigan State basketball team plays 30+ games over 5 months.  To measure them based on how they played on March 2nd, in only the 2nd half, at Purdue, would be foolish.  We wouldn’t give out grades or scores to Denzel Valentine or Coach Izzo based on that small of a snapshot.  That would be foolish, inaccurate, and incomplete.  So why on Earth would we do the same to educators?   There are better ways and they should be pursued immediately.

Value Educators with Accurate Measures

The cry then immediately turns to, “what else do we use?”  I argue that is not as difficult of a question as some would make it.  Ask any teacher and they would tell you that there is no shortage of assessments students are taking.  Teachers, district leaders, and school boards have the knowledge base to look at current assessments and determine growth measures for students.  Give them that task, have them report to their ISD’s, and the ISD’s to the state.  Use the standardized test as a small portion of that formula.   Also include how a student feels about their teacher, their school, daily work, and common assessments.  I think many would be surprised at what a good job districts could do once presented with that challenge.

In addition, when we use that small of snapshot to “score” a teacher, principal, school, or school district, we devalue all that they do over the 180+ days of the school year.  Our educators need to be built up, not beaten down.  Value and honor all they do to help students on a daily basis, both emotionally and academically.

It’s Not a Business — Jamie Vollmer

Take a look at this video.  While a little old, it’s a great message from businessman Jamie Vollmer.  It describes how he learned that one simple component makes education different than business.  We are actually dealing with human beings.  Not products.  Not numbers.  People.

Well-said, Mr. Vollmer.  We take them all, love them all, care for them all, and support them all.  I never thought I’d be referencing Jamie Vollmer and Brian Whiston in the same post.  But when I consider measuring and valuing educators, they certainly have some beliefs in common.

Thank you, Mr. Vollmer, for realizing the uniqueness of our profession.

Thank you again, Mr. Whiston, for the actions taken with the M-STEP and I hope they continue.


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