Numbers talk, we all know that. We also know that anyone can manipulate data and numerical percentages to further a plight or cause. Standardized testing measures in public schools help in determining possible inequities in general education. However, too often data is misused, interpreted to fit a particular agenda or misread in ways that perpetuate an inaccurate story. My name is Andrea Pendarvis and I am a proud English teacher at Highland High School. I have been in education for almost seventeen years and feel blessed to bean employee of Highland School District. Opponents of the mill-age have indicated concern over certain scores and I would like to shed some light on this issue. This data is being used in a con-text that isn’t fair, and I am saddened to know that some members of the community and a retired teacher have contributed to this misuse. No piece of data tells the whole story. When drawing conclusions about how students are doing, it’s important to use more than one measure. Data interpretation must include guiding areas that encompass representative and disaggregated numbers that accurately show the sample size and the limitations of the particular measure. ACT Aspire is our summative measurement (standardized test)for 9th and 10th grade students. The students have one session at sixty-five minutes to answer thirty-two items. These items consist of three-four passages with multiple choice and constructed response questions that measure their understanding and comprehension with Key Ideas and De-tails, Craft and Structure, and Integration of Knowledge and Ideas. The 2022 Reading Scores showed that 40% of HHS students were in the Ready or Exceeding categories, performing higher than the Arkansas state average of 38.5%. With all test scores combined, HHS per-formed better than 74.5% of High Schools in Arkansas and ranked58th out of 280 High Schools. We are proud of this achievement but we want this number to accurately show what we know our students can do. Everyone is working to-wards this goal with many different plans targeted around student achievement. To the students who take the ASPIRE test, nothing is at stake. Their grades will not be affected no matter how poorly their results are, colleges will not be looking at these, and rarely are they mentioned after the testing week. There are not any repercussions or consequences. The staff and faculty at HHS tries every trick and tool of the trade to increase individual external motivation. We do this by offering different rewards, trips, and other various incentives/celebrations . However, any experienced teacher will testify that after a week of testing, many teenage students will just start randomly clicking away. What do they have to lose? At this point, with no repercussions, most are willing to trade in whatever “car-rot” is being dangled in their face. Math and reading proficiency provide a critical touchpoint about how students are doing academically, but it’s important to use other data — attendance rates, discipline, graduation rates, growth, and other feedback. This is why schools in Arkansas receive an ESSA ( Every Student Succeeds Act ) Report and Letter ranking. This year’s 2022 overall state average ESSA scores for high schools was 64.01%. Highland High School’s ESSA index was 67.77%(above state average). Closer ex-amination will show that we were,.9 tenths of a point away from aB rating. All schools faced a decline in performance after Covid, but another number glared from the report. Basically, our student attendance rate is alarming and subsequently resulted in a component of our score to decline. Of our entire population, 57% of our students were grouped in the moderate and high risk attendance categories. In other words, these particular students miss 5-10%or more of days enrolled in a calendar school year. Teachers have absolutely no control as to whether or not a student attends class. We can’t teach them if they aren’t here. Additional subpopulation student information indicates that70.58% of our student population is “Economically Disadvantaged. ”Economically Disadvantaged can be defined as, “Families below poverty line, or receiving government assistance.” According to outside research provided by the Arkansas Department of Education, this cohort is 7.9% percentage points less likely to achieve proficiency in Math and ELA. Every year this number increases and we have more students that are homeless, migrant, living with multiple families in unlivable conditions, and being raised by guardians that are not their biological parents etc. The list goes on and one and just when I think that I have “seen it all,” a new situation emerges. Here are some numbers to report: I am ONE Teacher at Highland High School. I went to college and got a FOUR year degree. Later, I spent TWO years obtaining my MSE in Leadership and Education. I have sacrificed my own personal money of at least $250-500 per school year for my class-room and individual needs of my students. I am the teacher to EIGHTY-FIVE juniors and TWENTY-FIVE fresh-men. I require weekly writing and while you are sleeping EIGHT hours, I have corrected papers and tests .I have researched, created, and planned for SEVEN hours of instruction everyday. I work with FIVE-TEN students per day that need a little extra help with ELA skills. I have tutored ONE-TWO hours per week after school. I have endured harassing phone calls and emails with grace and professionalism. I have spent COUNT-LESS hours as a class and club sponsor. I have assisted at least TEN-TWENTY student cases PER YEAR of sexual abuse, teenage pregnancy, homeless, suicidal thoughts, depression, and other mental health issues. Now, I have been accused of being part of a failing system and that I am not worthy of teaching in a new building. You can take any number or data set that you want and use it for your benefit or to defend your cause. Don’t forget, I am not a single number. I am ONE TEACHER that is a part of HUNDREDS of dedicated, loving, hard-working, and highly qualified professionals (teachers, staff/faculty, administration, and board members) at Highland School District.
Sincerely, Andrea Pendarvis
9-12 ELA Teacher Highland High School