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The Story Behind the Story: Project 180, Day 141

Friday, I posted on the data we collect. Much of the data we collect is mined from students’ standardized assessments. And as the kids hopefully wrap up testing this week (at least 3 days to go), we will sit and wait for the results, the data. And though some would suggest that the data are key, are essential to informing our work in the classroom, I am no longer convinced that’s the case. I will get some information about this year’s kids; OPSI will generate a “report card;” the administration will offer up graphs and charts as evidence of what is and isn’t; and I will be asked to look for trends from this year’s results to drive my decision making in my classroom next year. Next year. From this year. Here’s the rub. The problem with the over-reliance on last year’s standardized assessment data is that it applies to last year’s students. It’s not relevant. Not once in my career have I found state assessment data to be of significance when making decisions about my approach with my current students. And I know that the argument suggesting that the data follow the kids exists, but I have not found it to be particularly useful in making real decisions in the classroom. For me, and others, standardized assessment results are really just an indicator that students, teachers, and schools have jumped through the hoops. Oh, I am sure it serves someone or something somewhere, but we need to reject the narrative that it provides critical input for teachers when it comes to making key curricular and instructional decisions. It is simply not true.

And yet, those in power believe that it is THE revelatory data that we should use to make our curricular and instructional decisions. I believe many in education are kidding themselves about the power and usefulness of the data we mine from standardized testing. The only useful data I have ever uncovered in my career has come from my immediate, in-the-moment, day-to-day interactions with my students. That is the data to dig up. That is the stuff of truly relevant data-driven decisions.

And so, as we move on to day six of testing, I will continue to be a cheerleader for my kids, encouraging them to ┬ájump through the hoop of hoops. And I will, then, sit and wait for the hoop-jumping results in June, bidding farewell to my kids this year, waiting to meet next year’s kids before I make any decisions. I have to. No relevant data will exist until we begin our experience together. Yes, teachers should make data-driven decisions. Of course we should. But not all data are useful. So we need to be selective about the data we choose. All data tell stories. But some stories are more important than others. I am no longer buying the standardized story. Well, I haven’t bought for a long time. I am just more willing to publicly call BS now. Time for a new story.

Happy Monday, all.

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