professornana (professornana) wrote,

Data points

Yes, this is another rant about numbers, folks. Feel free to click onto something else. It is that time of year when state test scores are being announced. The general consensus us that scores for the past 5 years are fairly flat, that the gap is not narrowing, and that student performance is not improving despite hours, days, weeks, and more devoted to test prep, benchmarks, practice tests, Saturday school, and more. 28 correct answers out of 52 items was marked as Satisfactory performance this year. That is 54%, FYI. Last year 26 out of 52 was Satisfactory. The preceding year, the cut score was 27 out of 52. What do we make of data like this? Here in Texas, we make bumper stickers about students who achieve high scores (commended performance) on tests. Parents brag about performance on social media. Schools have celebrations. Kids get certificates and trophies. And on it goes.

This is a sort of shell game. Cut scores, passing scores are determined after the test is given and numbers are being crunched. I took some measurement courses when I was studying to be a teacher, but none of the courses covered this.

For the former residents of the back bedroom, there were no prizes nor praise for performance on these tests. In the grand scheme of things, the residents of the back bedroom knew these scores were a snapshot at best. At worst, it was an indication of how much more they could have learned had not much of the school year been devoted to testing. The good news is that we knew the relative value (or lack thereof) of these scores. What mattered more to us was time to read, time to complete homework, time to visit other cities, states, museums, etc. But what about the kids whose parents think test scores are something about which to brag. It is the only thing tangible they get aside from report cards that let them know who their kids are doing in school. And that is a shame.I used to spend hours making out progress reports for each student in the says pre-test-insanity.

Bush Sr. talked about a thousand points of light. His predecessors began talking about data points. No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top and CCSS are all about data. Imagine thousands of data points replacing the faces of those kids in our classes. Data reduces their individuality to a set of numbers, to proposed interventions, to more tests, to programs and kits. Data takes away the messy human nature of our students and replaces that with numbers. How sad to think that we were worried about becoming a nation of numbers and losing our adult identities when we are allowing this to happen to the children instead.

Here's the sort of "data" that means something to me:
*what makes this child laugh?
*what interests outside of school engage this child?
*how can I connect in a meaningful way?
*what books and other materials might be some of those "just right" books?

I would rather know this. I would rather know the face and the mind and the heart of the child.
Tags: data, idiocy
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