Two years ago, I was approached about taking a newly created position in my district. It was called Curriculum/At-Risk Data Specialist and would involve studying data and planning interventions for at-risk students and doing PD for teachers at my school. I would not be doing any work directly with students, but would hopefully be helping on a broader scale through my work with teachers. I had been a classroom teacher for 7 years. I wasn't burned out, but I wasn't totally against a change of scenery either. So I took it.
I immediately began the work of training in RTI and assessment. I attended numerous conferences, studied the differences in systems implementing RTI, evaluated different assessment tools, visited and observed at numerous schools and began bringing some of what I'd learned back to our teachers. Data-driven instruction became my mantra. I also preached differentiation, although now I can clearly see the oxymoron. I wanted the teachers to differentiate everything they did with their students based on the data we were getting, but then assess them all the same. I generated spreadsheet after spreadsheet outlining exactly what the students were deficient in. I learned the names of almost all of the 550 students in my elementary school (especially if they were red or yellow). I lost sleep over a 4th grade student who couldn't read. I watched teachers cry over students they couldn't get from "yellow to green". I saw fantastic teachers panic over colors and numbers on a sheet.
Slowly, over the course of the two years I began to wake up and take a good look at what was happening around me. My philosophies began to change. The formative assessments, I really don't have a problem with. I think we do need ongoing feedback in some form or fashion to help direct our path and make sure our students are getting what we're teaching. The summative assessment is a different story and unfortunately that's the one that gets all of the attention. All roads lead to it. Teachers know it, students know it, and unfortunately it's driving everything we do in school.
Because of the recent changes with RTTT, this position went from two years to four years. I've decided that I don't want to ride it out that long. I'm returning to my classroom this year and I couldn't be happier. I feel like a first year teacher all over again! I wish that every teacher could experience what I have over the past two years. I've had training that I never would've gotten in the classroom. I've learned reading strategies, differentiation techniques, different approaches to running centers in my classroom, and so many other things and I can't wait to try them out with my students. I sincerely hope that I'm a better teacher because of everything I've learned over the past two years. I'm certainly enjoying looking at a SchoolBox catalog right now instead of reading a book about RTI!
Here's to the 2011-12 school year for all of us. Hope it's the best yet!