This week’s Parent Insight event, “Tests and Success,” provided a forum for an engaging parent discussion with Julie Kelly-Detwiler, Assistant Head of School. The conversation focused on the methods and philosophy around measuring and communicating student progress in the Montessori environment. There was great parent turnout for this event and attendees learned more about what tests Inly students take, how teachers prepare the students, and Inly’s underlying philosophy.
Julie spoke about the testing that is done while students are at Inly School. She stressed that tests are one static measure of achievement in the Inly environment, but explained that testing occurs at all levels of the school. In Lower Elementary, students have weekly math and spelling tests. They also begin defining standards for academic excellence through the use of rubrics. Beginning in the 4th grade, our students participate in standardized testing through the Terra Nova exams and are introduced to test taking skills. In Middle School, students take the ERB standardized assessments and are routinely tested throughout the year in all subject areas. By the time students leave Inly, they have experienced various types of exams and are prepared for both traditional and progressive secondary schools.
At Inly, as in all Montessori Schools, the focus is on building internal motivation and fostering a student’s love of learning. To this end, our approach to testing involves the child and is a means of involving them further in the learning process. Inly students are taught from the youngest ages to set goals and self assess. When they begin taking tests, they are coached on how to use the information that tests provide to improve their learning and their internal measure of success. There is an adage in traditional education that once a grade is assigned, all learning stops. At Inly, however, students work towards mastery. Students are expected to receive an 85% or higher on their tests, and if this does not happen the first time, teachers work with students to make sure that they relearn the material and then retake the test.
In addition, Julie shared a great deal of educational research that makes the case against society’s current reliance on standardized testing as a measure of intelligence or success. She referenced findings from several studies that disprove the commonly held belief that high scores on standardized tests are correlated to future success in school (high grades) or in the work force (better jobs). She also spoke about the excellent schools that our graduates attend, and how well they do once there—academically and as school leaders. While this measure is not as easily quantified as a single test score, we believe that it is a more complete measure of learner outcomes and one that Inly School intends to track and report more systematically.
It is interesting to note that just yesterday, the Obama administration lifted the restrictions imposed by the “No Child Left Behind Act” in ten states, including Massachusetts. As reported in the LA Times, “To get flexibility from NCLB, states must adopt and have a plan to implement college and career-ready standards. They must also create comprehensive systems of teacher and principal development, evaluation and support that include factors beyond test scores, such as principal observation, peer review, student work, or parent and student feedback.”
These are exactly the measures that we endorse and adhere to at Inly School, and we are happy with this new policy direction.
If you were unable to attend this talk, or other Parent Insight Events, and you are interested in learning more, we encourage you to come to a Coffee Hour with Julie and Donna, or to contact Julie directly.