Question – Now that we have a system in place to motivate teachers, when is there going to be something put in place to motivate the students? I can tell my third graders how important these tests are, but really they have nothing to lose if they don’t do their best. In the past I have had students that get on the computer and just click any answer. They don’t want to do these online tests and rush through them. Last year during my SEP’s I had students that had high Dibels scores, but low Acuity Language Arts scores. As I went over the data with these students and their parents I asked them if they read the stories on the Acuity test. Every single one of these students said that they didn’t take the time to read them. They just guessed. The test did not show what they knew. I think that this performance pay is deeply flawed if my pay raise is based on a group of 9 year-olds that could careless about their test scores. I can teach these kids the required curriculum, but I can’t make them take their time on the any of the tests. They don’t have anything to worry about if they fail. They just move on to the next grade. I’m the one who gets penalized. So I ask my question again, when is there going to be something put in place to motivate the students? Yes, the teachers need to do their part and be highly qualified, but students need to do their part too.
Response – I conclude from the subject line and the first sentence of your message that you, a teacher, finally have in place something to motivate you in your work – a performance pay system. I surely hope you find satisfaction and incentive in something greater than that. You then suggest that the scores your students generate on the language arts benchmark assessments have something to do with that system; this is incorrect. Results on the SAGE test will likely be tied to any future state performance pay plan, but the benchmark assessments are intended to be a tool for YOU, the classroom teacher. While they provide students the opportunity to practice with questions similar to those soon to be found on SAGE, it is our intent that the benchmark scores provide data for you and your grade level team – data which can suggest areas of instruction that require re-teaching, state standards that needn’t be addressed because students are already proficient in them, and indication of teaching that was effective and might be copied by a teacher who was less so in a particular area. As far as motivating students to do well on those benchmark assessments, the best motivator in a student’s academic life is a competent, caring teacher. I am confident that your students would have responded quite differently on the benchmarks had you begun the year with an explanation for the assessments by saying something similar to the following:
“Class, it’s the beginning of a new term, and today we’re going to the computer lab for something called a benchmark assessment in language arts. Let me tell you what you’ll see – about 25 questions that cover all the material I’m supposed to teach you this coming term. Now, I want you to help me do my job; I need you to give me some guidance so I earn my paycheck these next few months. Please try really hard to answer as many questions as you can. Even though we haven’t even studied any of that material yet, you’ll all be able to answer some of the questions anyway, and I don’t want to bore you by teaching things you already know. And guess what! At the end of the term we’ll go back to the lab and take another assessment on the same material that I’ve taught all term. I’ll want you to try really hard then, too; if you do, you’ll find out how much you really learned over these next nine weeks when we compare the scores for today to those a couple of months later. Also, just in case there’s something I taught that you still don’t understand on that second assessment, I’ll know what I need to re-teach a little differently to some of you so I guarantee you’re ALL ready for fourth grade next year. ”
I conclude with your final question: “When is there going to be something put in place to motivate the students?” My response: “Tomorrow morning. Motivation has been and continues to be something managed by the classroom teacher.” In point of fact, this would be a great PLC discussion – since everyone on your team or department is teaching the same neighborhood of kids, what seems to be working for colleagues that you might adopt?