Data Does Not Equal “Testing”

I’ve heard a lot of information in the last week, especially since moving to a new district. They had district-wide staff training for those of us that are new to the district. The meetings were fine, and the district really has a mindset to lead the state in utilizing and implementing 21st century learning techniques. I’m going to be able to continue using a flipped classroom and that involves re-writing the biology curriculum so we can roll it out school-wide (hopefully) during the 2012-2013 school year. It’s a long-range plan, but I’m happy and proud to be able to work with the district in moving classes forward.

One thing that stood out to me over the last week was the constant discussion of data and the collection of data in the classroom. Every example used had to do with student testing and performance, which in some situations, is completely appropriate. But, as the sessions moved on, the testing theme continued.

I know the state of the American education system right now is totally on testing and I’m working hard in my classes not to emulate that model in everything I do. Yes, I still teach the importance of “testing,” but it isn’t with a do-or-die mindset. Tests, when written correctly and designed to meet specific learning objectives, can give valuable information about learning and misconceptions. I am not against testing as a method of collecting data…I am against testing being the only method schools are using to collect data.

I was fortunate to be employed before this position, so I understand that data comes from a variety of sources, not just from test scores. But, there were also 70 brand new teachers in the room that don’t have that experience and the presentation they got was one side of the coin. We cannot pigeon-hole learners into a one-time performance. Allow me to use baseball as an example:

Ty Cobb is still credited with the highest ever batting average. He averaged 0.366 (or 0.367, depending on the source) with 11,429 (or 11,434 based on source) at bats. So, that means, for every 10 pitches he saw, he would hit almost 4 of them. That’s really good. But, he also had games where he didn’t have any hits at all. Looking at one game is not representative of his batting skill…we shouldn’t do the same thing to students by quantifying their entire learning experience on one day of testing.

The data we collect should be continuous and diverse. There is numeric data and there is emotional data; formal and informal.

I want to implore all of the veteran teachers that read this…please take time to talk to a new teacher in your building this year about collecting meaningful data from students. Don’t focus on testing alone…construct a base that is built in personal interaction and questioning, successes and failures, and then some testing. Let’s find balance in our learning spaces this fall.

Have a great first week of school!

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