How Should We Define Success?


In 2014, No Child Left Behind says that every student must be proficient in math and reading. Um, yeah.

No Child Left Behind ignorantly suppresses the beauty of what needs to be the focus of education: improvement.

You know what? None of my third graders will be proficient by the end of this school year in reading or math. Kids with disabilities are at an inherent disadvantage in this type of system, which assumes that if it’s the law, everyone will just have to abide by it – no excuses. Um, yeah.

Meanwhile, all of my students are making progress, and I have cases in which it’s quite significant. One student started September reading on a level E. This week he was promoted to level J – a gain of five levels (with three months to go).

Is it realistic for all students to achieve proficiency when a disability precludes them from retaining information or focusing or when a health issue causes them to miss over 100 days in two years? No. It is only realistic to expect and demand improvement.

Defining success in a narrow way consigns too many to failure. I refuse to do that. Anyone who improves in my class (and that’s everyone) is a success. Everyone develops at their own rate, irrespective of time tables and expectations. Why must children be shoved into holes that don’t fit them?

You will never catch me calling any of my students a failure, because as long as they bust their butts to improve, they will. I’m not sure I can think of a more accurate depiction of success.

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2 responses to “How Should We Define Success?

  1. Matthew,
    I totally agree with you. When you keep data ( with a small d) on each student, use it to drive instruction and continually show that the students are improving, it is a great way to show growth. Assessing the sudents against themselves and not against a standardized exam sets all children up for success.. Let’s hope that some of the legislators that you met with yesterday start to understand why this “test” is so right for kids.

  2. Pingback: What Testing Does to This Teacher | From the Desk of Mr. Foteah

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