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A concerned member of the human race

Monday, May 12, 2014

Unhealthy Obsessions

Educational Metrics of the Deformers:  The Wrong Scale, the Wrong Ruler

The educational deformers thirst for metrics.  They don't seem able to wrap their minds around anything that can't be quantified.  They will forever fail to understand school performance as long as they rely so heavily upon the measurements of things like Pearson-manufactured standardized tests.  

These deformers seek to compare not only students across the country, but with the help of the O.E.C.D., across the world.  They would have all countries marching to the tune that they call, prepping to save their pants and forsaking diversity for standardized gruel.    

They are entirely misguided.  I would compare their pointless pursuit to attempting to judge the healthiness of people across the world by measuring only height and weight.  The two measurements have some meaning, but they are by no means adequate measures of overall health. 

Two people might share the same height and weight while their health varies greatly.  One person may run a mile in under seven minutes, while the other may have a diet of saturated fat.  One person may eat healthy foods, another may not eat at all.  One person may be constantly insecure and obsessed with weight, the other person may be a happy, well-rounded individual.  One person may count every calorie and develop an eating disorder, the next may not.  One person may be socially well adjusted, the next may be on the verge of a nervous breakdown.  

I would say the same of two students with the same test scores.  When so much stress is laid on high-stakes test scores for students as well as their teachers and schools, an unhealthy obsession may develop.  With constant in-school prep for these tests (the Success Academy may take the cake here), it is as if our entire system is stepping on the scale every second of the day.

So much else is lost.  The test scores ultimately tell us very little.  They are largely punitive rather than helpful for instruction.  When some students fail (as, indeed, 70% of N.Y.S. on the 2013 round of Common-Core tests), it is as if kids are being bombarded with the idea that they are "stupid, stupid, stupid!" or that their teachers are "stupid, stupid, stupid!"  Some deformers (Rhee and Duncan come to mind) feel that students need to hear this message more.  It is as they want us to use their messed-up metrics to tell students, "YOU'RE FAT, FAT, FAT!  YOU FAIL, FAIL, FAIL!"

Conversely, some kids will do well on the test, but it doesn't tell us if they are socially well-adapted.  The "smartest" boy in my brother's class went off to Harvard where he proceeded to successfully commit suicide.  

Test scores don't tell us about creativity or social dexterity.  They don't tell us whether the other needs of young persons have been met.  They don't tell us whether or not a student may be the next one to be on the nightly news for all the wrong reasons.

Schools are becoming an increasingly ugly place for young people given the new focus on tests.  Louis C.K. exposed shortcomings of the Common Core to the mainstream in his recent tweets.  The joy of learning is waning fast, and from a very early age.  The deformers would tell us not to coddle our children.  They, of course, mostly send their own kids to schools that do not practice what they preach.  Young minds are sponges which must be allowed to soak up the things they naturally gravitate towards.  It is the best way to develop a life-long love of learning.  

I have a hard time understanding how anyone could be so obsessed with such abundantly absurd metrics.  Then, I remember for some people money is the measure of everything, more important than happiness, time with family or giving to others.   In the mindset of people like this, most of us are failures--on their tests, at our jobs and in life.  And, they want to make sure we know it and we buy their panacea.  The only problem is that according to my metrics, and the many things that are meaningful to me, they are the ones missing the mark.  They are using the wrong scale.  They are using the wrong ruler.

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