Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Power of Numbers

In The Tyranny of a Single Data Point from Tinkerings, Tim talks about his sruggle dealing with weight loss. His weight went up 3 lbs. in one day and even knowing that his body was reacting to different things, he used negative words to himself and felt like a failure. He also states,

“The tyranny of a single data point can be the difference between an under qualified teacher thinking they are rocking it with their kids, or the proverbial rock star thinking they are simply a failure pretending to be a good teacher.”

I took have been trying to lose weight for the past 3 months and only weigh in once a week. My weight has gone up and down but basically I still weigh the same as I did on January 1. Part of me says that I’m still doing good because I’m not gaining weight but part of me wants to lose it and lose it quickly! Of course, I look back at all the bad food choices I’ve made this week and swear that I will do better next week. Unfortuantely I’m having trouble with willpower and need to come up with a new plan. But that is for another post.

As for data affecting teachers in the classroom, I totally agree. I still go back to the situation when No Child Left Behind came out and I found out that I was not a highly qualified teacher. I had a Master’s + 30, was nationally board certified, taught for 25+ years and was even awarded the state Special Education Teacher of the Year! But, I was not considered highly qualified to teach my self contained high school students functional life skills and were not even getting a high school diploma. Of course, this hurt my feelings, but I did what I had to do. I paid my money to take the Praxis certification test to  be certified to teach elementary education. I didn’t take any courses or study for this and passed it with flying colors. That makes me feel as if that was more of a “tax” than any necessity to improve my teaching.

Meanwhile, there was a teacher next door to me teaching the same thing but was considered highly qualified because she was an elementary education certified teacher. Eventually after 3 years of tremendous documentation and evidence, the school was able to fire her for incompetence. Unfortunately for the parents and students, it took three years to accomplish this (due to our highly litigious society, many schools want to dot their I’s and cross their t’s before firing anyone).

The scores that made her highly qualified and me, not highly qualified had no bearing on our competence. It made her feel as if she could do anything she wanted and that I needed to watch my back.

I’ve seen students know the class material one day and then feel like they had never seen it the next day. I need to make sure I look at progress over time and not just one day at a time. I’m not a great test taker so I try to include other ways for students to show me that they understand the material I’m teaching. Unfortunately, some of my students have been taught to only look at the test grades as a indication of their progress even though I insist that they are doing other things that count towards their grade. When they get a lower grade than expected, they like to argue that they did so well on the tests but I have to show them that they didn’t do so well on other projects or answering questions about the text during class.

Sometimes we also have to take in account the effort that a student puts forth. I find it very hard to give a student a failing grade on a test when I know he has put so much effort into the work. I usually offer an opportunity to retake the test or offer it in a different format. Sometimes they feel like they have already failed it once so what is the worst that can happen,  so they are more relaxed when they retake the test and do wonderful on it. I can always tell if the student hasn’t studied or put any effort into their work but I feel that if they try, the number they score should not be the deciding factor of their progress.

How do you feel about numbers? Please share.


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