Data Driven Sanity

Image from "Guest Blogger Scott McLeod on Data-Driven Decision Making" on the eduwonkette, click on image for more on D3M from that sorely missed blog.

Image from "Guest Blogger Scott McLeod on Data-Driven Decision Making" on the eduwonkette blog, click on image for more on D3M from that sorely missed blog.

Diane Ravitch has some more words of sanity on Data Driven policy making at the Bridging Differences blog.  Click the link for the entire post; here is an excerpt:

This approach rests squarely on the high-stakes use of testing. One only wishes that the proponents of this mean-spirited approach might themselves be subjected to a high-stakes test about their understanding of children and education! I predict that every one of them would fail and be severely punished.

We agree that a better approach is needed to assess how well students are learning what they are taught. We agree that current standardized tests are not adequate to the task of determining the fate—whether they should be rewarded or punished—of children, teachers, and their schools.

I think that testing is important and can be valuable, as it helps to spotlight problems and individuals in need of help. But the determinative word here is “help.” The so-called reformers want to use accountability to find people in need of termination and schools in need of closure. Let’s hope this punishment-obsessed crowd is never put in charge of hospitals!

Unfortunately, events are not breaking in the direction we both prefer. The stimulus bill includes millions so that every state can create a data system. This system will track the test scores of every student, from pre-K to college, and attribute their test score gains (or lack thereof) to their teachers. When the information is available, it will be used and misused. Every teacher (at least those who teach the tested subjects) will have a public record detailing whether his or her students made gains or not. This information will be used to establish calibrated merit pay schemes, so that each teacher will get more or fewer dollars depending on the scores of the year. Is this piecework?

The federal government seems ready to impose a Dr. Strangelove approach on our schools to turn them into “data-driven systems.” Not, as you suggest, “data-informed” systems, but data-driven systems. Teachers will certainly teach to the tests, since nothing else matters. The only missing ingredient from this grand data-driven scheme will be education.

More on data driven policy on AMPS here.

Thomas J. Mertz

1 Comment

Filed under Accountability, Best Practices, education, National News, nclb, No Child Left Behind, Uncategorized

One response to “Data Driven Sanity

  1. colby2


    I have worked for a title 1 school in Florida for the past five years. Most of the children retained, in my view, have nothing more wrong with them then being “curriculum impaired”. It is very sad to see our youth viewing themselves as failures before the age of 10.

    I am not afraid of speaking out or losing my job for doing so. I know in my heart that we are doing our children a lifelong terrible disservice by not protesting NCLB.
    I read recently about the television program titled “Jerico”. sp? At any rate, its producers decided to cancel the show due to lack of ratings. Proponents of the program joined together and protested. Apparently there was a character on the program who always said “nuts”. So, this group decided to bombard the producers with bags of nuts as a protest. The producers in turn returned the show to the air for more episodes.

    There is no reason we as parents and teachers can not follow their lead. What would you think of doing something like:

    Dear NCLB legislators,

    No child left behind?

    I have been left behind ____ times!

    Post a picture of your child (not smiling) in/or on the letter, frame it (so it will take up lots of room!) and mail it to:

    US Department of Education
    400 Maryland Ave, SW
    Washington, DC 20202

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