Thursday, December 6, 2012

Million Dollar Smile

Phillip is a highly autistic (academically low) 5th grader in our school.  He's high quirky, but well liked by his classmates and teachers.  The problem with Phillip was that his teeth looked like he'd been smoking a pack of Marlboro's a day since birthday.  They were yellow.  Phillip was afraid of the dentist and refused to go.

Phillip's teacher and the teaching assistant who worked in Phillip's classroom began to show Phillip daily "BrainPop" videos on going to the dentist (BrainPop is a website that offers short educational videos), as well reading with him short informational picture books on going to dentist.

After a couple weeks of this, Phillip agreed to go get his teeth cleaned.  He came back the next next excited as could be, showing his (noticeably) whiter teeth to anyone with at least one good eye.  Phillip's parents were extremely grateful for the help.      

This tale represents another issue I have with the continued practice of measuring educators performance, talent, and efforts based off of test scores.  Where will Phillip's teacher's success in getting a frightened boy, way overdue for a cleaning, to the dentist?  How will this obvious teaching success be measured?

Phillip will not pass standardized tests.  Ever.  I can only assume that this teacher will be reminded by some district savior of the high standards they need to maintain with special education students and then handed a series of charts which shows what everyone already knew- Phillip is low and behind grade level.  It's possible under some administrations that if knowledge of the teacher's actions were known he might be reprimanded for deviating for the districts curriculum (Rigor! Rigor! Rigor!).

Formative testing information provide schools with some clues to help drive instructional decisions.  However, anyone who actually works inside a school understands that the variables that affect these tests outcomes are too numerous and unique in nature to begin listing.  Measuring a teachers and schools on student performance data alone is irresponsible, bad for moral, and bad for community.  So why again are we spending roughly 1/3 of the year in American schools prepping & administering standardized assessments?

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