Friday, March 06, 2009

I Still Don't Understand This Data Hype




One of the problems with having a decent principal is that you don't want to make him look bad during the Quality Review. Things were so much easier with Suit around. I wanted everyone to see him for the fool he was.

So, on snowy Monday, I actually looked up the records and past report cards of all the students that were added to my rosters in February. (I already know all I need to know about he ones I've had since September.) Now, for the shock (not really, it was just what I expected), all but two of them received 50's or 55's in math last semester and all have a long record of repeated failure in math and other subjects.

What does all this data mean? There is nothing in the record that tells me how to help them. There are no clues as to how I can reach them. I just saw a bunch of numbers that mean nothing. Millions of dollars have been spent on a system that accomplishes nothing that I can see (unless I am seriously missing something.)

I broke down and looked at one IEP as well. I will never do that again. I've spent countless hours working with these kids and I know what they need. In fact, I am proud to say that all my resource room students are currently passing. They understand the work and are coming for extra help when they need it. They feel good about the subject, all without my looking at one of these documents.

Will these Quality Review people be able to tell me how to use this data that I now have?

Footnote: The Quality Review people observed me today. I will definitely post about that at some future time. All I'll say now is that it went surprisingly well. (I would never want them to see me if I was in charge, there are so many better teachers around.) One of the good things about Suit was that he steered them far away from me.

14 comments:

Chaz said...

What a waste of money having these quality review people evaluating the classroom.

Pissed Off said...

I totally agree. Wait until I post about it.

JUSTICE not "just us" said...

I agree a good and decent principal should be protected and supported by his or her staff.
Sad to say that the system that BloomKlien have set up is a dog eat dog one. If something goes wrong Hula will be replaced in a moments notice and an SOB will be brought in to punish the staff.

Anonymous said...

I am so sick and tired of these unconscionably expensive consultants with their contrived "evaluations" and fake standards. This is a monumental waste of money that is not going into classrooms but into these no bid contracts. How do they get away with this?

Tom said...

Amen to the uselessness of this unending data. Especially since the data only tracks what the kids got right and wrong on the assessments. Those are the effects of the child’s learning problems; nobody is concerned with the causes.

Anonymous said...

See this point:
Every qualified teacher can tell what their students need to learn from their own classroom assessments and those that can’t do this, should not be in the classroom and will not be able to gain any information from these expensive, time consuming tests either.

Tom above probably falls in the latter part of of you statement. :S

Pissed Off said...

I think Tom was agreeing with me but I might be wrong.

Tom said...

Tom agrees with Pissed Off. In my school we are required to keep a binder on every student to identify areas of strength and weakness. But the focus, based on the endless assessments, is only about which strands the kids got right or wrong, not what their learning problems are. Sam did worse in geometry than number sense, so spend time re-teaching him geometry. But Sam’s problem is not that he doesn’t get geometry (he only did slightly better in number sense). His problem is that he’s not processing the lesson as other students are. He doesn’t need to be re-taught geometry, he needs to be taught learning skills.

The numbers game is wasting teachers’ precious time, but more. The entire discourse about what to do to improve schools is a diversion. None of the talk—about charters, merit pay, teacher training, etc.—goes anywhere near the one question that matters: why are the kids failing?

Anonymous said...

so Tom....

Why are kids failing?

Tom said...

Kids have always failed.

They fail when they don’t have the resources to succeed. Some have learning disabilities; some have attention deficits; some severely lack self-monitoring and persistence.

Poor, minority kids fail in disproportionate numbers. Much of the problem has been definitively traced to cognitive and affective development in early childhood.

These deficits can be overcome through early childhood programs, or through intensive intervention in the early grades. Without such intervention, once kids reach about sixth grade it becomes almost impossible for a school to turn them around. There are exceptions, but they are exceptions.

I realize I am not saying anything people don’t already know. And I realize this is not the entire answer.

But it is most of it, and every time the subject gets changed--which is mostly all the time--we move further from a solution.

Pissed Off said...

Well said Tom. The only thing I am not totally in agreement with is the intensive intervention. It might work for some kids but I think we have to accept that not everyone can learn everything. I know this is not avery politically correct thing to say.

Anonymous said...

very interesting Tom. I think many people would agree with early childhood development so much so the Federal Gov. & NYC Gov. have invested in Pre-K programs. The real key is Parenting Training and Education.

You have me researching this a bit, as you have got me thinking. However, this leads me to the idea of Parenting education in High School.

I have always said that if you needed a license to have children in this country many people wouldn't be allowed to have kids.

The question is... and THIS is the big question... what do you do with those kids. What ideas do you have... you surprised me with your last answer to be honest.

Tom said...

Yeah, well both of the last comments seem to me to be right on.

What DO you do with the older kids? What we do, tell me if you disagree, is try everything we can think of and see what kind of works. And keep on from there.

And, true, Pissed Off, it very often doesn’t work. The reality is that there is no known cure for student failure. That message needs to be said. The fact that it’s not politically correct is itself part of the problem.

Today’s buzzwords are “No excuses” and “Whatever it takes.” But those are the things that people need to stop saying. “Whatever it takes” is a good attitude to have when you want to accomplish something, but it’s a terrible basis for policy making.

The punditry and much of the public has turned our goal into an assumption. They’ve gone from the conviction that no child should be left behind, to the belief that if kids are being left behind, it means that someone’s not doing their job.

I just finished Paul Tough’s book about Geoffrey Canada. He moved heaven and earth in a no-holds-barred effort to turn around students in his charter middle school in Harlem, and by his own admission failed. (By contrast, he did fine with the little kids.) But what did the experience teach him? At the end of the day he and his principal are disagreeing about whether it was the teachers or the kids who didn’t step up. Hello?! If that experience didn’t get them to question their assumptions, what would?

This seems to me to be one of the deepest fault lines that separate the perspective of teachers from those of civilians.

Anonymous said...

you have given me much to ponder... I am not done with this thread.

However, in the meantime, I will do "Whatever it takes" but most of all I will have hope.

If us educators don't have hope who will? The politicians ? The bureaucrats who make educational policy?

nice posts Tom... interesting stuff.