More than a Number

By Mr. Matthew Trump, Dean of Faculty

As a teacher at YCDS, when I first heard the terms “standardized test”, my immediate reaction was that this would not align with the fact that all Country Day students are known and valued.  After a recent professional development session on January 15, 2018, with a representative from the Educational Research Bureau, who creates the assessment we will use with students in grades three through eight, my concerns as a faculty member have metamorphosed into excited optimism.

The idea that standardized assessments reduce an individual student to a numerical score is something that is prevalent in the modern incarnation of the public school system in the United States.  I have acquaintances at local public schools and have heard first-hand their struggle between wanting the best for their students as individuals and feeling the need for them to perform well on the variety of tests currently administered in Pennsylvania.  This juxtaposition certainly detracts from realizing student success in our public school system.

The individualized support experienced by Country Day students on a daily basis is testament to the constant striving toward our school’s mission for all constituents.  Teachers pride themselves in knowing not only how well a student is performing in their class, but also how their team did in last night’s game, how their club is making a difference in the community, and how their job at a local eatery is going.  At YCDS, students are more than a number on a roster or line item in a grade-book.

Having our students engage in low-stakes, yearly assessments brings much value to our school.  Teachers will be able to clearly identify areas where there may need to be adjustments in curriculum.  Students will gain valuable practice in traditional testing environments.  In the past, many of our students experienced no standardized test until they took the PSAT in grade 10. The CTP, which is the assessment we will be giving to students in grades three to eight, will allow our students to feel more comfortable with the layout and format of these assessments much earlier in their educational careers. Lastly, the testing will allow teachers to have a larger and more diversified data set of information about individual students so that they may appropriately differentiate instruction to meet student needs.  

This assessment will provide another lens through which we as teachers and administrators can know and value our Greyhounds.  Imagine if we set out with the objective of assessing our students’ physical health.  We could make observations that include things such as: their exercise habits, if they maintain a healthy weight, and if they eat a balanced and nutrient rich diet.  What if we were to also run tests on blood samples from these individuals?  What more could we learn?  How would this enable us to help those individuals continue to make positive choices to maintain physical health?  The upcoming assessments at YCDS will be like running labs on those blood samples.  We will gain valuable information about how to best support our students as they march onward toward college and toward their future.  

This is why I am excited about the concept of low-stakes standardized assessments at YCDS.  Just like our physical well-being, our students and our families deserve as clear a picture of their educational state as possible.  This picture only enhances our mission and illuminates the fact that our students are more than a number.