Data, data, data.
We live in quite a data driven world in education right now.
Over the last nine years I’ve been teaching, I’ve seen data become more important and more talked about year after year. In 2016, my students are assessed many times throughout the school year, for many different purposes. They take a pre/post 6th grade English Language Arts assessment so that we can see deficits and growth in our district. They take an R-MAZE comprehension screener three times a year to determine if smaller group or more individualized instruction is needed in reading. They take a STAR assessment at least three times a year to determine their approximate reading level. And, of course, state assessments every year. This is on top of the various ways we formally and informally assess their learning of our curriculum, which are taking place all the time.
This last batch of assessments, our winter benchmarking ones, have made me feel heavy and sad.
I am a fervent supporter of what Katie and I are doing with our sixth graders: our highly integrated, highly engaging, highly empowering, highly REAL curriculum. We are not perfect, but I know we are doing good teaching. I KNOW it. Our data has yet to catch up with us and this has made us both pause, reflect, and question a lot.
While doing work at Panera on a Sunday, Katie and I ran into another teacher in our district and we were telling her how discouraged we were with our data and that we were trying to make sense of it all. After sharing that she was sorry we were taking up time to have that kinda conversation on the weekend, she let us know what SHE cares about as a parent: Are my kids nice? Do they get along with other kids? Essentially, are you helping them grow into a kind, compassionate, caring HUMAN BEING while they are in your class?
Of course academic growth is important –> of COURSE it is. But there is so much more to the story of a school year that would make it impactful and successful for a student. There is also so much more to the story of the ways these kids get assessed and the KINDS of assessments they take: are they valid? Do they really assess what we want? What are we doing this with data, anyway?
This made me think about other ways we should measure, assess, and screen our students:
-Happiness during their school day
-Acts of kindness they’ve completed
-Service projects they’ve created and been a part of both locally and globally
-A students’ level of awareness and self-awareness and their ability to reflect
-Whether they use their voice to share their thoughts and opinions
-Whether a student feels heard AND listened to in their school day
-A students’ sense of belonging within their classroom or school
What if we provided intervention on these things if a student wasn’t at the level they should be?! What if we individualized our instruction based on these levels of performance?! What if I was evaluated as an educator on these topics?!
That well-respected teacher in our district reminded us that what we work hard on DOES have meaning and DOES belong in our classroom. I was appreciative of that. Katie and I are always improving our craft and always pushing ourselves and each other to be better, do better, serve better. We are not where we want to be, data-wise and that’s discouraging and frustrating. But, I know my students are SO MUCH MORE than the way they come out on an assessment; there is more to their story than that. I also find hope, today, knowing if my students were evaluated on the things I listed above, my team would be off the charts in achievement and I think that’s saying something.