The Gazette talked with Montgomery County Superintendent of Schools Joshua P. Starr on June 4 and asked him to address pressing education issues. Starrís thoughts will be published in this section. This week, Starr talks about balancing and measuring student achievement.
How do you balance 21st-century learning with testing and all the other pressures that are on teachers right now, and how do you train teachers to do both?
Part of it is a leap of faith.
And if you have heard my weight-loss analogy before, I apologize for using it again. But if you are looking to live a healthy life and the only indicator is how much you weigh every quarter, you may be tempted to take a diet pill two weeks before the weigh-in. But if you are judged instead on what you do every day — to sleep, eat healthy, exercise, all that — then some quarters will be up, some quarters will be down, but you will probably weigh what you wanted to weigh.
It is a question of what you are measuring, and my belief is that you measure what you do every day with kids. You get off the diet pills — and [No Child Left Behind] and standardized tests are equivalent to the diet pills, as far as I am concerned. We have to convince teachers, administrators and parents — and find ways to communicate this — that if we do the right things for our kids every day ... they will do fine on the tests. [Students] need to be somewhat familiar [with] the way that the tests are structured, so there is a bit of preparation that goes into it.
But if the only way you are being measured is standardized tests, then you align everything to it. It is a leap of faith, and my belief is that the educators in Montgomery County, parents, and our constituents, are willing to take that leap. I think that the seven keys [of college readiness] are a good measurement — because it isnít just about the tests, it is about AP and IB, ACT Ö so we have to take things to that next level.
Next week, Starr gives his take on the pressures students face.