Will we ever again trust in the idea of non-quantifiable learning?

Here's the problem: our scores speak for our school before people know who we are or what we do.

The book is being judged by the cover. But does the cover have anything to do with gaining insight to or prognosticating about the content? For sure.

However, does it tell the whole story?
Probably not.

Does it tell an accurate story?
I am not so sure.

Does it tell a fair story?
Nope, I don't think so.

Test scores are the first -- and sadly, in far too many cases -- the last things that politicians, bureaucrats and parents are seeing and using to make judgements as if one can know from afar what can only be viewed up close.

And far too many of their judgements are being based on these narrow windows.

I guess I wouldn't have so much of a problem with this if I didn't believe there was such a wide gap between test scores and what was actually going on in a teacher's room. It's just not, in my opinion, an accurate, insightful, full, rich, deep look in the profession of teaching.

And yet, it is being assumed to be so.

Look, my test scores are gonna rise next year. Why? Because that is my (forced) goal.

But does it mean I am a better teacher?
Does it mean my students learned more?

I'd say it definitely will mean my students will have become better test takers. But at what cost?

We are so fiercely driving all our nation's teachers to up their bubble test scores that we are losing sight of the fact that, in the 21rst century, almost no one uses bubbles to measure the ability to perform at any level once you leave the world of academics.

Performance is measured in how one performs... by actually doing something.

But we are not asking our kids to DO enough.

And they want to DO more.

And they take greater benefit from school when they DO more.

And in life, they are gonna have to DO.

I mean come on, the reason we love the magnet schools and high-functioning charters is because we get to see kids in their science classes looking under microscopes while kids in computer classes program code and kids in theater art class stage full ballet productions.

We don't ask to see the bubble test scores of the kid we see building solar heating panels. Why? Because we know they are learning.

How? In non-quantifiable ways.

Will we ever again trust in the idea of non-quantifiable learning?

Views: 41

Comment by Andrew Pass on January 15, 2010 at 9:42am
I think that there is a huge difference between test scores and quantifiable learning. You write, "We don't ask to see the bubble test scores of the kid we see building solar heating panels. Why? Because we know they are learning." I slightly disagree. What was this same student doing last week, last month or last year? If he is now developing solar panels to power homes but previously developed solar panels to power cities, I'd suggest that he is not necessarily learning at the present moment. Yes, he has many high level skills. But, he is not learning. Personally, I value the importance of quantifiable learning.

Andrew Pass
Comment by Alan Sitomer on January 15, 2010 at 9:47am
Does that mean if one can't quantify the learning one is not really learning?


All learnable things... and oftentimes more important than what can be quantified.
Comment by Andrew Pass on January 15, 2010 at 9:56am

There are meaningful ways to quantify all of the examples that you just listed. Just ask a behavioral psychologist who conducts research studies. I'm not suggesting that standardized tests currently assess for all of these things. But, I think your gripe is with standardized tests not quantification. (I don't necessarily fully agree with many of the problems that opponents of standardized tests associate with them but the points are worth considering.)

I hope this does not come across as offensive because I certainly do not mean for it to do so.


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