Curriculum Update/Iowa Tests Results

Dear School Families,

I wanted to share some good news from the results of this year’s Iowa Tests as well as address the direction of our curriculum.  I should probably apologize in advance for the potential length of this communication.  As I have stated before, these tests only provide one piece of information to a student’s overall academic ability.  However, they do provide some useful information both about individual students as well as potential curricular adjustments that may need to be considered.  Over the past year we have updated our 5th-8th grade Science, Social Studies, and English/Language Arts curriculum.  I am currently reviewing the K-5 math curriculum that was purchased the summer before I started at St. Teresa and also considering other curricular adjustments in the area of the “specials” we will offer.

The overall adjustments that have been made over the past several years have moved us toward a more active, student led, and student driven approach, and have moved us away from the more passive and memorization based design that most of us experienced as children.  While these changes are sometimes hardest on the adults, they are necessary if we are going to truly prepare our students for the world they will live in as adults.  As an example, it was appropriate in 1980 to know how to use the Dewey Decimal System; however, those skills are seemingly useless in today’s world of online research.  Fast forward to the past two years and I’ve nearly written my entire dissertation and have yet to step foot in the library.  The trick to all of this is finding the middle ground of teaching and learning those “essential skills” and pulling in those skills that transfer over many different settings and environments.  Things like problem solving, team work, critical thinking, compassion, and empathy to name a few.

It is imperative that our students become advocates for their own education and learn how to learn.  If they are not able to learn, unlearn, and relearn as adults in 2025 they will not be successful.  Imagine the speed at which the world will be changing by then.  Do you think my typing skills will be important then, or do you think I will simply say the words and the computer will spit them out for me?  Obviously we will try to provide support and guidance for the students as they progress through this level of their education, but we also have to push them out of their comfort zones (and yours and many times ours).  I realize that a more active and engaging curriculum is at times more difficult on the students, the teachers, and even the families; however, it would be a dereliction of duties to take the easier rode because of parental preference or teacher comfort level.

Please understand that there will be a learning curve for everyone involved: teachers, students, and families.  However, as comfort and confidence improve long term gains will far outweigh any short term hiccups.  It is far more important that our current students have the necessary skills to excel in their futures than it is what grade they make on every elementary school test.

In closing, our staff, our school, and certainly your principal are not perfect.  However, please rest easy and know that your children are being properly prepared educationally and in an environment that encourages empathy, respect, love for each other, and of course the values of our Catholic faith.  After 23 years of varied experience in education and many late nights completely my own professional studies, I am confident in that fact.

The following results are a comparison of our current 8th grade class and the 8th grade class of 2013.  The trends you see below are consistent across our test scores from the last five years.  GO TIGERS! 

  Grade Equivalent
2013
Grade Equivalent
2017
National % Rank
2013
National % Rank
2017
Vocabulary 10.3 10.7 76 80
Mathematics 9.7 12.1 64 80
Science 12.1 13+ 76 79
Core Composite 10.9 12.2 76 81
Comp. Composite 11.7 12.6 77 80

 

As always, thank you for choosing St. Teresa School as your partner in your children’s education.

Respectfully,

Mr. Birdsong