professornana (professornana) wrote,
professornana
professornana

By the numbers

I put it off as long as I can: the annual visit to the doctor for my "well person" checkup. Thankfully, I have had no need to see a doctor in the past 12 months for routine stuff, but I know what to expect. it is a NUMBERS GAME. It begins at the receptionist desk with the numbers from my new insurance card and my new (higher, of course) co-pay. Then, it is the form with all the data already on file. Then, take a number and wait (which is actually OK as I take books, yes, plural, books). Finally, I will be summoned into the first of the back rooms. More numbers. This time, we start with weight. Then blood pressure (gee, I wonder why it might be elevated? Perhaps because I get to step onto a scale in front of ANYONE else). Temperature, pulse, respiration: all numbers. Lab tests will be ordered (by the number) and reports sent (more numbers). Do not get me wrong: I like the doctor and his staff. I do think, though, that with the NUMBER of patients they see, that I am a number, too.

And this is what I fear for kids in today's data-crazed educational setting. They have student numbers, bus numbers, locker numbers (and combinations). If that were not enough of a numbers game, now there are new numbers we associate with kids: lexiles, levels, test scores, and more. I have been ranting for the past month or so about the snake oil salesmen out there who tout the virtue of numbers: 55 vocabulary words, lexile bands, reading levels: all designed to reduce a kid to a mass of data. Apply their magic elixirs and the numbers will increase. Yep, I think they will, too. I fully expect the number of dropouts to skyrocket as more and more kids fail the new tests (do not even call them assessments; they are tests pure and simple and evil). And, yes, scores will increase eventually. You see, that is the greatest numbers game of them all.

I began my teaching career in middle school BEFORE any state mandated tests. Then, there was TABS, TEAMS< TAAS, TAKS, and now STAAR. Each time there was a new test, the scores would fall. New test, unfamiliarity about form and format and content=lower performance. We were warned that scores would plummet even before kids took the tests this year. The reason offered by those profiting from CCSS and Pearson is that these are real tests; they will test the true rigor of the curriculum. They will ensure kids are college and career ready. Blah, blah, blah. Sure enough, the numbers are really low. See, the architects and profiteers say, WE TOLD YOU SO. Small comfort to the kids who are now defined by lower scores and even more daunting sets of numbers.

When we level book club flyers, when we publish test scores in newspapers, when we define how well we are doing by ANY set of numbers, we are reducing the human element. Kids become numbers, data sets. Instead of seeing kids as unique and special and loved by their families, we reduce them to a set of numbers. And then we wonder why they avoid school and education and reading and writing? It should follow that, if we reduce kids to data points that the logical outcome will be a further mechanization of education. Perpahs the writers of dystopic fiction are not that far off with their daunting visions of a future where people do not matter, well where only a select few people matter.

I will put on my big girl pants and call and schedule an appointment to see the doctor. But I will not let the numbers define who and what I am. I am a person beneath all of those numbers. See me, please, for who and what I am.
Tags: ccss, data, levels, lexiles, numbers
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