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Names not Numbers: Project 180, Day 140

Yesterday, I emailed this to colleagues and administrators as a reminder that while data tell a story, some stories are perhaps more important than others. Schools have always collected from the left-hand column. We do an exacting job of it. And once collected, we then analyze it to make sense of it, using it to make important decisions about the system. Nothing novel or new about this. It’s how the system works, a system that has essentially, in many respects, remained unchanged for decades. The problems are not new, and sadly, neither are the answers. And yet, we continue down the same old path, mostly listening to the left, largely ignoring the right.

For the last four days, kids’ stories are being written. But not by them. They have not shared their passions, interests, and goals. They have delivered data points to a system that will build a facade, hiding within those who inhabit the walls, perpetuating that they hold the definitive details to the year’s stories. They hold the data. But data are not kids. Kids are not numbers. And numbers present a limited view of the complexity that is learning. I’m no longer convinced the numbers alone pave the path towards progress. I think there’s more to the story. Maybe it’s time to start driving on the right side of the road. Maybe instead of collecting we should be listening. We might learn something.

Yesterday, to illustrate my point–as I vowed to both colleagues and admin–I called each kid by name as I handed out their test tickets with their identification numbers. With a smile, I reassured each that he/she was a name, not a number, wishing him/her luck. Names not number. People not pupils. Stories not data points.

Happy Friday, all. The march into madness continues today. Grumble.

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