Thanks for the encouraging support everyone - let's hope I can keep up with this. Beware: this next post contains links. If you want to actually read those linked articles, be sure to give yourself a good 15 minutes.
I was sitting with a friend at lunch recently discussing my annoyance at policy in the School District of Philadelphia for problems I am currently having related to assessment. During discussions she mentioned an idea in the business world wherein “you get what you measure.”
A simple statement as statements go – but it has ramifications far beyond what anyone might expect.
This concept relates to the business world during performance reviews when the measurement tool puts the employee to the test. A tool measuring quantities of clients will frown upon an employee who brought in but one over the course of 3 months. However, if the measurement was how much money was brought in and that client happened to be the Gates Foundation – well, you get the idea.
Of course I relate this to education in a direct way – the nation is currently obsessed with the idea of testing. So much so that a recent article argues that testing students over and over again will help them learn better. I would agree with that statement – since the study is essentially testing how well students are performing on a test. A critique on the Huffington Post asserts just that.
Here, again, it depends on what we are measuring.
Test scores are currently improving across the School District of Philadelphia. In the 2009-2010 school year 59% of schools made AYP (adequate yearly progress), a large leap over what happened previously. Of course, the NAEP test shows (National Assessment of Educational Progress) something different. How are we to know which test is better? More accurate? Less weighted by socioeconomic class?
Maybe we should be measuring something different. I don’t deny that tests provide valuable information for teachers to use in their classes. But the emphasis on implementing them so often is harmful. The days I spend implementing Benchmark tests, Predictive tests, and others, could be used for teaching.
Perhaps, instead, we should focus on what kind of colleges our students get into after high school. Or, better yet, how many of them graduate from those colleges; how many get jobs; what salaries are associated with those jobs, etc.
We really need to think about what and how we measure. The more we decide to measure mediocrity, the more it will pervade out schools.