Soapbox: Education

A slight change in our normal programming today dear readers, as I feel the need to get this off of my chest.

I hate data. Specifically, I hate the data that makes it look like my students aren’t making any progress.

Let me back up. As most people are aware, the last fourteen years or so have seen a variety of changes in the education profession. I admit, I don’t know how closely regulated things like this were before 2001, but in the wake of No Child Left Behind a lot of emphasis is placed on how closely students follow the “normal” developmental benchmarks for their age group. For example, how quickly students read. If students fall below these benchmarks, schools have to follow a series of steps to correct the deficiency. These can be anything from implementation of a school-wide RTI program (depending on who you ask, RTI stands for either “Response to Intervention” or “Response to Instruction”; some groups prefer the acronym RTII, “Response to Instruction and Intervention”) to replacing the entire reading curriculum. The point is, all students are measured against these standards.

As mentioned previously, very few of my students meet those standards. Because of the way the targets move during the year, even fewer are considered on track now than at the beginning of the year. If you look strictly at the data, all but five of my kids are considered Tier III, that is, in need of serious help.

But the data doesn’t tell the whole story, especially if you only look at one set of test results. By the end of the year, my kids will have taken three “benchmark” tests that measure their reading and math skills. They also participate in bi-weekly progress monitoring, alternating between reading and math. All of these results get fed into the computer and tracked. And if you look at all of that information you can see that my students are making progress. It may not be as fast as the policy makers would like, but it is happening.

More importantly though: my kids aren’t data. Those tests don’t measure things like social and emotional growth. They don’t measure skills like being able to hunt, or how to survive in one of the harshest environments in the world. They don’t measure things like the trust I’ve spent five months earning.

Okay, time to get down off of my soapbox. Thanks for listening.

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3 comments
  1. Great teachers of all time have always said the same thing as you. Governing bodies have always suggested more tests.
    Read Socrates. Read Rouseau. (both with a grain of salt) Read Bertrand Russel railing against the stiffling effect of exams.
    Every educator balances the needs of the kids, versus the requirements of the institution.
    Good luck!

  2. This is the curse of any school system, and most countries are now implementing more and more tests to see the students progress even though most studies show that it’s very ineffective. In Sweden we are currently fighting the PISA-curse. Many international comparative tests are done, in most Swedish students excel – but not in the PISA. So of cause something has to be done about that, according to the politicians. There must be something wrong with the students or the teachers and no one thinks about the possibility that the test are faulty. Well, no one but all scholars and teachers. No media covers the test we are good at, just the PISA. We also have national comparative tests (only in third, sixth and ninth grade) in Swedish, English, math, science and usually one or two other subjects. For the third graders there’s no less than seven tests in math only, five tests in Swedish and so on to be done during a period of fifteen weeks. Almost no teaching is done during this last semester, all lessons are spent on either writing the tests, preparing for the tests or going through the results from the tests. No wonder the students learn less, they are not thought new material for these approx three semesters during their time in school, time older students had to learn new material…

  3. Claudia Steele said:

    Totally agree with you. Everything seems to come down to some data numbers that totally miss so many other factors that need evaluated. Data doesn’t give the whole story of anything!!

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