Dublin Superintendent Hanke Discusses First Year Smarter Balanced Assessment Results
If managing rapid growth weren’t enough of a challenge, the Dublin Unified School District has also been implementing the Common Core curriculum, and transitioning to the new California Smarter Balanced Assessments (SBAC) which replaced the standardized tests students take periodically. The first set of SBAC results were released earlier this fall and to learn more about the results OneDublin.org sat down with Dublin Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Stephen Hanke.
Mary Morehead: The first results of the new California Smarter Balanced Assessments (SBAC) testing were recently released and 77% of students either met or exceeded the standards for English Language Arts. After analyzing the data, what is your assessment of how our students performed?
Dr. Stephen Hanke: “SBAC results are divided into four categories: standard is exceeded, standard is met, standard is nearly met or the standard is not met. There’s a couple of important parts to consider. For English Language Arts is not just those students who are meeting or exceeding, but those who nearly met that collectively together say there is less than 10% of our students across the District that are not meeting the standard. It’s important to note that we have a small percentage of students that are not meeting the standard, as well as students nearly meeting the standard. We target improvement for all students, in particular moving students up a category.
“With the introduction of Common Core we’re providing a significant amount of professional development for our teachers. We’re introducing a new element this year with a focus on rigor and relevance. There are two axes – rigor on one, and relevance on the other. You could have material that is hard but not relevant, or material that is relevant but not rigorous. The concept is to target learning to be both rigorous and relevant – content that is more challenge and relevant for students. We’re employing the work of Dr. Willard Daggett which refers to the ‘D’ quadrant as the intersection of rigor and relevance.
“We want students to go beyond memorizing and get a deeper understanding of the concepts they are learning. We think that professional development, combined with the existing work on professional learning communities and safety nets for kids in need, will continue to positively impact our progress.”
Morehead: In Math, a lower number of students met or exceeded the standard (69%). What areas of improvement did you identify after looking at the detailed results, and what is the plan to improve the score?
Hanke: “If you look at our math scores in the elementary grades they tend to be somewhat higher. Our younger students are learning the basic facts. When we move into middle school, as mathematics gets more challenging, we see a bit of a dip. When we get into the specific content of math, geometry, algebra II / trig, pre-calculus and calculus, we are seeing more work that needs to be done.
“The assistance is the same – we provide safety nets for students, such as tutorials during and after school, and professional development for teachers. We are working to build a college going culture. We are also providing opportunities for students that are ready for more challenge to be challenged, including open access to advanced courses so that students who believe they can handle more advanced courses have the opportunity to do so.
“The more we provide the foundation at the elementary school level, beyond memorizing facts and digging deeper to seek multiple solutions, the better prepared our students will be for more complex mathematics. Early intervention is an important strategy.
“To be open and transparent there is work to be done in mathematics, not just in Dublin but across the County and the State.”
Morehead: What are the best practices that have contributed to the students meeting or exceeding the standards for English Language Arts?
Hanke: “Professional development is a best practice. It’s not just the what, but the how, and that’s what professional development is all about. How do I define rigorous content? How to I make the content relevant to today’s students? There has been a major focus on this work.
“Collaboration through Professional Learning Communities is another best practice. Let’s imagine we’re both teachers and we’re talking about the performance of students in our respective classrooms. If your students are consistently performing better than my students, I might ask ‘what are you doing that I could use that could help me?’. We are creating a collaborative culture by having teachers work as teams rather than in isolation. As educators we are results-oriented and are continuously improving our teaching strategies.”
Morehead: Parents are naturally going to want to compare the SBAC results with earlier test results. Despite the challenges of comparing two very different assessments, do you feel the District has improved?
Hanke: “The CST and SBAC are apples and oranges tests. It took a number of years before people really got the CST test results, and while we don’t think it will take as long with SBAC there is a learning curve in interpreting SBAC scores for all of us – including parents.
“While it is natural to want to compare results, such as the number of students who are proficient, the tests themselves are very different.”
Morehead: What role does technology play going forward?
Hanke: “Technology can no longer be isolated; technology must be integrated into our programs. The challenge of technology is efficacy: do teachers believe they can be successful integrating technology or are they afraid they’ll show a lack of skill? It’s important we build the confidence of Dublin teachers to integrate technology as a tool for learning, to enable teamwork and new types of projects. It’s important we have a District CTO that gets it and a Services Department that blends the two pieces together, and that’s exactly what we’re doing.
“It’s not technology for technology’s sake, but technology as a tool in this process of providing our students rigor and relevance.”
Morehead: What ultimately happens to API scores? Are they obsolete and are being replaced? Or will they be updated?
Hanke: “I believe API scores will be coming back with nuances in how they are calculated. I don’t believe API scores will be solely based on SBAC scores and may include college readiness indicators. College readiness will probably include ACT / SAT results and AP exam scores. I’m not certain of the timing of updated API scores or the final formulation. That’s still coming.”
Morehead: There has been a lot of controversy about Common Core in other states, and in particular Common Core testing. How is the adoption of Common Core gone so far in Dublin?
Hanke: “Very well. I think this District always had a focus on deeper levels of thinking, it wasn’t just about rote memorization. I don’t think the principles of Common Core are as new to our district as they are for other districts. Our teachers are working really hard employing the principles of Common Core and we have really good teachers. As a growing school district we can add the energy of new teachers while at the same time tapping into the maturity and skills of our experienced teachers.
“The TPACK model – Technology, Pedagogy, and Content Knowledge – is where all of the efforts come together and impact what superintendents should do, what administrators should do and what teachers should do. It’s fascinating work that has helped us with the transition.”