Saturday, March 25, 2017


I just re-read this article after four years, and it's not just still true but DOUBLY true. Every last word. Years later and we are STILL pumping money into testing systems and using the tests in ways that even their designers say are inappropriate. We are evaluating art teachers and music teachers by their students' language arts test scores. We have become slaves to "data" that has no validity whatsoever. We test using math questions that have seven answer choices and up to four of them may be correct. If you miss one, you get the whole question wrong. We test proficiency in adding integers by requiring students to know every possible way to express the question instead of simply asking if they can do it reliably in A mathematically valid way.

The absurdity of the entire system right now is painfully obvious to those with enough experience and knowledge to see it. I got dinged once on an evaluation because I didn't have language arts writing prompt "data" on my wall. Never mind that I wasn't told that it was a criterion used to evaluate me ahead of time. I'M A MATH TEACHER. I'm at risk of not being considered a highly effective math teacher because I don't have writing prompt "data" from the language arts department that most math teachers (I'm an exception) aren't even qualified to evaluate in the first place? The scoring rubric was so vague that nothing useful could come from it. And I DO know how to evaluate grammar and spelling. If you want me to evaluate their writing, I'll do it. And I'll do it correctly. But a checklist item to indicate whether they used the three vocabulary words you explicitly told them to use? THAT'S NOT WRITING DATA. It's compliance data, as is the use of exactly three paragraphs. I literally have to count the times they indented and check the box. And someone thinks that posting this information on the board with a score attributed to each student makes me a better math teacher.

This isn't data we're collecting, any more than literally counting beans in Kindergarten was accounting. It's not even as good as the empirical data I gather from walking around my classroom while students are working to check their understanding. There's no serious mathematical analysis going on. There are no standard deviations being measured. I would like to challenge everyone in every school administration, local, statewide, and national, to define an outlier or even interquartile range without looking it up. And if they can't do it, they should STOP TALKING ABOUT DATA. Because that's basic, and I mean BASIC statistics. It's an Algebra II standard here in Indiana. If you're not even up to using high school math, then stop using it to adversely affect the learning of my students and the livelihoods of my colleagues and me.

I've been told to watch what I say on Facebook. I do. I carefully consider my words and edit them numerous times to make sure I am not misrepresenting myself or the truth. But, okay, I'll post it here on my old blog instead. Data proves that it's not Facebook.