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What is Data-Driven Decision-Making? How does it impact my child? by Jennifer Robinson, Assessment Committee Chair Data-driven decision-making is an important national trend in education today. The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) requires states to establish systems of assessment. Tests gauging student achievement of learning goals are meant to be useful as a means of understanding progress made by students, teachers, schools and school systems. Assessment systems influence a whole range of decisions, administrative behaviors, instructional activities, and emotional responses. In his book entitled Power Standards, Larry Ainsworth portrays a chaotic and emotionally charged classroom atmosphere created in response to standardized tests: But We Have To Do It All! The Old Model: State Standards District Curriculum Frantic Coverage of Every Test Objective Center for Performance Assessment (printed with permission of Publisher) At the top of the pyramid in the model above, the words State Standards are very small, depicting a manageable concept; but one that can elicit a large and disproportionately “frantic” response when embedded in a state assessment program. Note that the author refers to the state of affairs represented as the “old model” and challenges educators to follow a different model. For more on Ainsworth, visit [http://www.makingstandardswork.com]. The results of standardized tests provide data for decisions that affect the quality and focus of instruction in the classroom. These decisions in turn affect your child’s school experience. For example, after reviewing assessment data, school leaders might decide that more time should be spent on reading instruction and reduce the time allocated for instruction in social studies or the arts. Ultimately, these decisions affect the depth and breadth of students’ content knowledge. Content standards are a sequenced list of what is to be taught. Our state assessments are linked directly to content standards chosen by the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE). County school systems across the state decide how closely to link instruction to content choices made by MSDE. School systems are further challenged to address the needs of all types of students, from those who struggle to master minimum content to those who need advanced content. Content standards are the subject of study, debate and cyclical change, as instructional theories fall in and out of favor and decision-making power shifts among theory advocates. For example, a national discussion about the breadth, depth, and sequence of math standards is currently taking place. Baltimore County PTA Council passed a resolution in the spring of 2003 advocating a review of Maryland’s math standards. In keeping with PTA’s central mission, which is to “to support and speak on behalf of children and youth in the schools and before governmental agencies and other organizations that make decisions affecting children”, Baltimore County PTA Council has an Assessment Committee. Its focus is to support parent knowledge about assessment in order to enable parent participation in assessment-related decision-making. The Assessment Committee is recruiting volunteers. If you would like to join the PTA Council Assessment Committee, please e-mail us at email@example.com .
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