As a new contributor, let me just start with a big thank you! The amazing thing about this blog is it’s willingness to consider all voices and the value placed on the voice of the teacher. ¡Gracias!
This post is a response/addition to “The Cost of Data” written on June 16.
As a classroom teacher, I can very must attest to the ‘cost’ of data in terms of instructional time; however that is not the only cost of data. As data continues to be used to secure funding, open and close schools, and hire and fire teachers, it’s important to also consider the cost following: the type of assessments collecting the data, and how the data is being used in the context of the day-to-day teaching of children.
In terms of the types of assessments being used, I think that there should be more transparency between the big corporations who profit from selling standards aligned, PARCC aligned resources and those who decided to use the new kinds of assessments. While I think PARCC is heading in the right direction with the type of performance tasks that are based in the real world and promote critical thinking and problem solving, there is disturbingly little information on how these assessments will be adapted and used in the primary grades (a shocking trend). After witnessing testing anxiety in my six-year-old students, we have got to change the way we talk about testing and consequently data. The tests need to be developmentally appropriate and vetted by the people who actually have to use them: teachers. Amazingly enough, PARCC has posted sample assessments and asked for feedback, though I wish more teachers knew about it so they could actually give feedback.
When teachers don’t understand where the tests came from, the background of their development, or even how they address the standards, the cost is a wealth of information that doesn’t know how to be used to inform instruction or shared with parents about student performance. The cost is not only a rise in student anxiety, but also teacher anxiety as they teach to and prepare for a test they don’t really understand simply because the results are so important.
This leads me to the ‘how’ of data. In the daily life of teaching, data is used many ways: to make small groups, to decide what and when to reteach, to differentiate instruction, and to create and monitor interventions. When used correctly, data can be the best tool to tailor instruction for students. I’ve used it myself to engage parents in supporting students at home. I’ve seen it create ‘lightbulb’ moments where parents really see their children for the first time. Yet, there is a dark side to data as well. I have watched administrators sit in ESL or SPED meetings and use data to stereotype and pigeon-hole students. I’ve seen it used to bully parents instead of inspire them. I’ve seen it used to scare and intimidate teachers instead of using it to help them grow. I’ve seen it shared with students in an effort to ‘motivate’ them to do better only to leave them crying and wounded.
Data can be a wonderful tool used to make schools and teachers better, but there is an added cost when the assessments are foreign and tied to high-stakes and the data isn’t shared in a constructive way. The only way to keep making progress while using data is to have a conversation about it. Kudos Glo for keeping the dialogue going 🙂