Our growing national commitment to early childhood learning success will probably continue to produce mediocre results. Despite a greater awareness of the importance of early learning success, we still offer preschool and K-3 programs that are substantially the same as the programs which have led to present outcomes. Most schools have not yet learned to use systematic measurement of progress toward competency in the essential outcomes which are the foundation of learning success for life.
Amazingly most schools don’t even try. Schools were designed to deliver content, test kids, give grades, and allow less successful learners to choose to leave school for other pursuits. We’ve increased the quantity of content we deliver (way too much). We argue about the list of standards that we should “cover” (a huge distraction from more pressing issues). We push forward with the delivery of content whether students are successful or not, without assuring that key competencies are achieved. Then we wonder and complain when students disengage from learning.
In a January, 2013 Wall Street Journal article, Bill Gates argued for the power of systematic measurement of progress: “Setting clear goals, choosing an approach, measuring results, and then using those measurements to continually refine our approach—helps us to deliver tools and services to everybody who will benefit, be they students in the U.S. or mothers in Africa.”
A poor rural school in Mississippi began implementation of systematic assessment toward essential early learning outcomes in 2008-09. Using the Essential Skill Inventories they learned to:
- Clearly identify essential learning outcomes
- Use systematic measurement to determine the readiness levels of your students in relation to essential outcomes
- Offer responsive instruction and carefully monitor progress until these skills/objectives are deeply understood (competency)
- Allow students to move on to more advanced learning as soon as they are ready
With the recognition that certain skills are essential, and need to be carefully developed to complete competency, teachers are more effective assessing progress, planning instruction, differentiating instruction, and responding to the development of the whole child. The Simpson County teachers using the Essential Skill Inventories (K-3) with fidelity report significant improvements in teaching skills and behaviors associated with early learning success, including systematic assessment, instructional design, differentiated instruction, understanding the whole child, and building relationships with students.
Systematic measurement of progress toward competency in essential early learning skills is a departure from standard practice in American schools. By identifying the skills and behaviors crucial for school success we can ensure that for these outcomes teachers don’t just cover them and then move on. We can ensure competency in these skills for life.
Read the entire article by Bob Sornson on CompetencyWorks at http://www.competencyworks.org/2014/01/systematic-measurement-of-progress-toward-competency/