Saturday, September 13, 2014

Screw Data.

I'm really hoping that we're close to another pendulum swing in education.

The obsessive reliance on data in regards to decision making in schools and classrooms has exceeded it's value.  Just as teachers and principals have cried out that test scores aren't a measure of their effectiveness as educators- the same rule applies to learners as well.

What we're currently doing is the equivalent of looking at only a batters home run statistics to determine who the best baseball players are.  Learning is not, no matter how much we try, like money.  It can't be easily quantified, nor can it provide fast evidence of effectiveness or lack thereof.

I don't care what measure you're using.  None of them can account for the kid who walked away from drugs because of something a teacher said.  None of them can determine if a kid has stayed in school only because he feels safe with this teacher. None of them measure the blossoming of creativity, kindness, courage or collaboration (all 21st C. skills...) which teachers routinely foster.  And none of them can predict entirely if a child will or will not be successful in life.  However, most of the time, what they DO tell us, after loads of cost, time, and anxiety, is what any decent teacher already knew.  "He reads slowly?  Holy Shit!  I would have never known that despite teaching him for months!  I'm so glad we interupted several days of learning to lab test seven year olds!  Thank you AIMSweb!"

The data craze has numbed classrooms, and killed many spirits.  It's been great though for consultants and authors of educational books as we can now endlessly debate what 'rigor' or 'high standards' actually mean when determining cut scores and services for children.

Teachers should be encouraged to trust their instincts, embrace their passions while teaching.  I'm not in any way an advocate for drill & kill, endless memorization, or hours of homework.  Education has progressed and improved.  Data does have a place in our schools and classrooms.  However, 'data to inform decision making' should NOT effectively equate to "data to remove all use of the human brain.'  

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