Measuring student progress and teacher effectiveness post-Sandy

Published on Friday, May 10, 2013

by Carrie Meyer, Teacher, Bay Head School

Bay Head Elementary SchoolThe State of NJ measures the effectiveness and overall “success” of a teacher based, in large part, on his/her students’ scores on the NJASK.  During the week of May 6-13, as I administer the NJASK while also celebrating “Teacher Appreciation Week”, I wanted to share my thoughts and professional observations on the success level of Bay Head School students and teachers.

This school year has presented challenges that could not ever have been predicted on an academic, sociological, emotional, or economic scale.   Hurricane Sandy changed the lives of every individual student in my classroom and in all of my colleagues’ classrooms.  The objectives of our daily lessons remained the same, but often took on secondary importance to the physical safety and emotional stability of the students under our care.

I am proud to say that Bay Head School was recognized as a “Reward School” for being a “high performing” school based on its 2012 NJASK scores.  It’s nice to see statistics positively support the long-standing cooperative effort of involved, caring parents, hard-working, responsible students, and well-trained, dedicated teachers.  When Assemblyman David Wolfe came to congratulate the students and staff personally on this state-recognized measurement of academic success, he toured our damaged physical structure.

Any politician visiting our school could not fully see our school’s progress without meeting the students and teachers who, having been battered just as hard as the building,  remain focused on their objective: to grow and improve and learn from whatever life throws at them while also mastering academic concepts and skills deemed grade-level appropriate. 

Anyone who does not spend time in the classrooms might not see students who, 6 months after the storm, are not living in their homes but are still coming to school with their homework complete and a positive attitude. 

Someone not inside the school walls daily might not see interactions between students who have translated heartache and unfairness into compassion and humility, might not hear teachers’ descriptions of what the school feels like, sounds like, and smells like with no heat and no electricity.  

Those who don’t spend time in our classrooms might not wrestle with the constant dichotomy we teachers face, one that has multiplied exponentially since Sandy: Do you correct the run-on sentences of a student who has finally written about the most traumatic events of his young life? Do you interrupt the girl telling her family’s midnight escape story for the twelfth time so that you can get to your planned lesson on verb tenses?

"The beautiful human-ness of these students, their families, and their teachers cannot be measured by a standardized test, and yet is so very worthy of “reward status.” No government proclamation, no scheduled visit, no appreciation week, no single test score can capture that adequately."

All of this sounds dramatic, maybe. But a reader doubting its veracity just emphasizes its awesomeness.  It truly has been an unbelievable, unprecedented time to be a member of our school community. And despite this/because of this, the students of Bay Head School have been learning, growing, and improving immeasurably. 

The students, the families, and the staff have dealt with an increased workload and have managed and thrived with decreased resources in an often-challenging physical and emotional environment. 

But we have been exposed to generosity beyond measure, and kindness and caring beyond reason from so many people- both near and far, old and new.  We’ve stayed focused on our goals, and we’ve shared experiences that will forever bond us. Our NJASK scores should once again reflect this, and might even earn the school another visit from an Assemblyman for  “high performance.”  If that is the case, I hope the next round of accolades or next visit will focus on all facets of our success and amazing achievements, and not focus on the physical walls surrounding us that haven’t rebounded as quickly as we have.  

Since it is Teacher Appreciation Week, I would be remiss to not thank my colleagues and co-workers for the support they’ve shown during this time.  We often work, like many people in our hard working community, 10-12 hour work days.  We lost our faculty room, our coffeemaker, our communal space. Since our building’s re-opening in mid-December, we have been sharing one microwave between roughly 25 people, most of whom have only 20 minutes to wait in line to heat and eat lunch. We arrange coverage for our classes in order to use a teachers-only bathroom that, although compromised, is cozily illuminated by sparkling holiday lights, courtesy of our uber-caring custodian.  Our holidays, vacations, and weekends are often not work-free days, but rather days during which we are fortunate to be able to work from home.

And despite these (perhaps petty) complaints, the positives truly outweigh the negatives because of what we have learned from seeing the resiliency and the genius in our students.  The beautiful human-ness of these students, their families, and their teachers cannot be measured by a standardized test, and yet is so very worthy of  “reward status.”  No government proclamation, no scheduled visit, no appreciation week, no single test score can capture that adequately. 

“Life is a journey, not a destination.” For some, NJASK results and Teacher Appreciation Week might be the “destination” in the famous adage. The BHS teachers, staff, and students have learned first-hand that life is indeed about the journey.  And what a rewarding journey it is.

Congratulations to the students on a job well done, and Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!

 

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