WHY THE APPROACH?
Our students these days are used to being tested on a regular basis. Critics would say, they are tested more than they are taught. The teachers and the test givers obtain the students’ scores, share them with parents, and those scores drive the assessment that people make of the school’s success, and not just the individual students within it. A student knows quite clearly how his teachers and parents feel about his or her educational endeavors.
SOMETHING IS MISSING
Of course, some testing is always necessary so that teachers know where the gaps are, and who is excelling. But something seems missing that is equally important. How do we gauge how successful the students themselves think he or she is doing as a learner? Do they think they are doing better or worse than what others say? If there is a disconnect, the consequences can directly affect their motive and efforts.
INSIDE OUT AND NOT OUTSIDE IN
Most of the time, the student is being invited to assess themselves from outside in. They are being graded as honor/ pass/fail students, not just students whose work reaches or fails to reach some required standard. What if we had an instrument that sought to create more room for self-assessment from the inside out?
THE HIDDEN CURRICULUM
And what if this self-assessment was about the informal rather than the formal curriculum, focusing on the basic life skills that are equally if not more predictive of learning success than a high mark in math or english or calculus.
FIVE CORE LIFE SKILLS
What if we knew how the student felt about
-their level of confidence
-their level of excitement about what they are learning,
-their ability to work with others,
-their resilience when things get hard
-their overall happiness about how their life is going?
This is not about what we think, or what the teacher thinks, or what their parents or peers think, but what they, the students think, how they assess themselves, their internal conversation as to how well or how poorly they are doing. This is why we call it MYSCORE.
HOW WE ARE DEVELOPING THE INSTRUMENT
This is the genesis of MYSCORE, a practical instrument currently being tested and developed through the day to day voluntary service of 16 members of Project CHANGE, Montgomery County MD’s premier AmeriCorps program.
WHAT IS ACADEMIC ENGAGEMENT?
Project CHANGE is engaged in increasing “Academic Engagement” (Performance Measure E27A) of the 600 K-12 students they serve from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. In the past, “academic engagement” was narrowly interpreted as “How the student was liking school.” The problem with that was first, that many struggling learners find school anything but conducive to their success. Second, the intervention of the members was not an intervention that occurred at school necessarily, given that many members work in after-school programs. Thirdly, measuring satisfaction with school was not directly tied to what the members were doing in their service hours.
SERVING WITH BUT OUTSIDE THE SYSTEM
The value add of the AmeriCorps members serving this needy population is that they are not directly part of the school system. They are not teachers and they are not bound by the mandatory system of tests and scores. An AmeriCorps member is there for the students, period. And the strength of that interaction is the basis of any impact the member is likely to have.
ATTITUDES ARE INFECTIOUS
The member may or may not have the requisite skills to be an able Math tutor but what always translates is the attitude of the member to the student, and the student to the member. Attitudes are infectious.
If the member champions the student’s successes, and is there as the support team through her struggles, the student gains a sense that they are recognized, that they matter at least to one significant other. They have a mentor who can inject the magic that contributes to the student feeling more confident, more excited about what they learn, better equipped to work with others, more resilient in dealing with setbacks and experiencing a level of happiness that motivates them to continue to strive to be their best.
That is the promise of MYSCORE. Watch this space for updates.