Superintendent's Corner

Dr. Marc Space

Superintendent Dr. Marc Space’s Back to School Message

In the past month the Public Education Department has released results of the most recent student assessment.  These results reflect implementation of a newly designed state assessment developed to measure attainment of significantly more rigorous Common Core Curriculum Standards.  The assessments themselves were new in design, longer, more difficult and very different than prior tests.  The goal of the new Common Core Curriculum Standards is to ensure that all students are more systematically and consistently prepared for the challenge of college and career in an increasingly competitive global community.  At this juncture, you are probably aware of media reports that indicate a substantial reduction in student scores with an average across the state of approximately 49% proficiency in the Reading and 41% proficiency in Mathematics.  The decline in scores was expected and predicted by the several superintendents in the state, including myself.

Thus, the standards have been raised, but the tests do not indicate that student achievement has decreased.  These test results do not mean that teachers are teaching less or that students are learning less.  Hence, the test results provide a new baseline, setting a new bar for student achievement, and require significant professional development for our teachers so that there is deep understanding of ways to engage student sufficiently in shifts in teaching and learning indicated in the Common Core standards.  The results in Grants/Cibola County Schools should be seen as a starting point for establishing new expectations and levels of attainment consistent with the Common Core Curriculum Standards.

There are many questions about the validity of the tests as a determinant of student success and accomplishment, since there is no performance history to utilize for research and analysis.  There is a strong belief by educators throughout the state that the assessments were prematurely implanted before students could be effectively instructed in the new, more rigorous, Common Core Learning Standards curriculum.  The Public Education Department determined levels of proficiency through an analysis that is not transparent or well understood. 

As a close-knit and caring community, GCCS faculty, staff, parents and residents share a dream for their children.  They envision a successful, fulfilled and happy life for them.  A result on one test is an inadequate surrogate for deeper, performance based multiple measures of a student’s growth, achievement and accomplishment.  These multiple measures are demonstrated in and out of school, on the field, in the community and on the stage, through authentic writing and speaking opportunities, and in classroom assessments.  However, there is no question that the aspirations for critical reading and thinking, student engagement, mathematical acuity, analysis of text, purposeful writing, and understanding of multiple perspectives reflected in the new assessments are worthy goals for student learning.  These aspirational goals for learning prepare students for full participation in an increasingly demanding national and global economy, a world in which the ability to analyze and question is a condition of active citizenship.

In conclusion, the current test results alone cannot be used to measure or judge student ability, growth or teacher performance.  The tests assess a new challenging curriculum that is still not completely understood by educators.  It is difficult for teachers and students would have worked so hard to contemplate these results, even though they were predicted.  However, we cannot allow a defensive posture to express our disappointment.  Rather, we must judiciously with determination move forward.  We must be “all in.”  Our goal as a District will be to provide professional development and support to teachers so that they have the tools needed to ensure that all students are engaged in the challenging work embedded in the Common Core Curriculum.  The effort to provide this support will require parents to support their children attending school every day with the goal for every student to miss less than five days of school for the entire 2014-2015 school year.  This means not coming late to school or leaving early, but being there, ready to learn when that first period begins and remain there through the last period.  Together we can accomplish the mission of the Grants/Cibola County Schools:  “Every student, every day, building a person for life.”



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