Sunday, March 17, 2013

Slice Seventeen - Measuring Students

Slice of Life is sponsored every Tuesday by Stacey and Ruth from Two Writing Teachers. For the month of March we are challenging ourselves to write a Slice A Day.

When participating in Slice of Life for the month of March I often write my slice the night before for the following day. I don’t like to procrastinate and that makes me feel better – that I have it done. I can spend the following day looking for inspiration to strike so I can write that night. This normally works beautifully.

Except when it doesn’t. Like last night. I think it says something about my 39 years on this planet that I am STILL exhausted from MRA. (And maybe IRC, and report cards, and a presentation.) So exhausted that after a great (and long) phone call with a friend, I looked at my computer and decided I just couldn’t do it. Surely inspiration would strike in the morning. I was going to bed.

So this morning I woke, begin skimming Twitter, Facebook, reading through Google Reader (tearing up – why are they shutting down Google Reader!!!), and nothing was jumping out at me. And then, enter Teri Lesesne. The woman is brilliant. I swear, I should set up some type of automatic retweet/ share feature for her blog because I believe I do share every one. Last night’s blog was no different. Go read it HERE. I’ll wait. J

Brilliant, right? And exactly what I have feared. My husband said something similar to me when I explained Lexile to him. He is an engineer. He looked at me and said something to the effect that you can’t use math to explain something that is not a mathematical concept. Books can’t be leveled by a formula that focuses on the sentence level – that ignores the meaning, the content. Kids are not “figured out” by data either. Period.

And the most frustrating thing is the complete disregard for the teacher’s expertise. I was fortunate to hear Sir Ken Robinson speak at NCTE this year. He talked about the fact, the FACT, that teaching is an art form. We are the artists. Does everyone even recognize that anymore? Have they ever?

Yes, I have many different data points for each student in my class. I only teach them for reading and writing, but for those subjects I have information on fluency, comprehension, ISAT scores, running records, writing tests (that are horrid), etc. And they might give you a part of the puzzle. But my students are complex – we all are.

What I know about my students cannot always be quantified into neat numbers in columns. What I know about them could fill volumes of notebooks. I know what conditions they work best in. I know the genres they like to read and the ones they don’t. I know how they feel about themselves as readers and writers. I know the kids who read at home at night and the ones that don’t. I know which parents value school. I know who goes home to a caring home and who would rather stay at school. These are the things that can’t be filled out on data sheets.

When they measure my students they are only getting part of the puzzle – and not even the most interesting part. Fine, I have no problem with some testing – some. (Did you here that CCSS folks? SOME) I have a huge problem if we just take the numbers from the tests because they are easy to compare and don’t let the teacher weigh in on what she knows to be true. You are ignoring the artist. And the artist knows her students. She knows their story, to use Teri’s phrase, and the numbers are only the first chapter.