Dirty Laundry Item #2 – Not having made a record of my data.
February 12, 2012, 1:31 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I want to be accountable. Waaaaay more accountable than what the results of a one-time standardized test score can tell anyone about what a student has learned, when then have learned it, and why they learned it.

Dear whoever brought about the idea that standardized tests will fix everything:


Sincerely, OFOT


Ok so let’s say you are a parent who wants a, rigorous, strict, inspiring, perhaps religious, individualized educational experience for your child. We all want an excellent education for our kids. Those of us who have school age children and/or happen to be teachers know the quality of feedback from standardized tests is LAME. I am sure you were just talking about stanines the other day? No?

What does any of it really tell you? My kid’s recent test scores could support the hypothesis that summer vacation had a larger affect on learning than school. The scores were higher at the beginning of this year and then just recently went down again after 5 months of school. The analysis is either 1) true, and school is “bad”, thus teachers are bad. Or 2) false, it means standardized tests are “bad” and thus current policy decisions like RTTT are “bad”. Which is correct? Can’t figure it out? Hmm – no way to tell who is right? WHY? Because the quality of the feedback sucks! Or perhaps I can state this in a more mature way – it is not meaningful.

If we try to figure out “what” is wrong with education. Pretty tough, there are A LOT of variables there. But I would garner that what is wrong is a lack of meaningful quality feedback. I must thank many of the other bloggers like Shawn Cornally ( and Frank Noschese ( ) for bringing this concept to my attention.

The lack of meaningful feedback is killing education at ALL levels.

• Students don’t get enough quality feedback in their day to day experiences in school

• Teachers don’t get enough quality feedback in their teaching

• Administrators really don’t get any feedback on their work

• Standardized Tests don’t give us quality feedback

• Research is not consolidated enough to have feedback that can impact all of the above.

If every player here were to work on one sole thing – improving the quality of feedback, we would have see improvement.

The quality of the data we do have is either flawed or not organized enough support or disprove any hypothesis that is out there. So it is easy for those with money and who want to make more money to take advantage of this mess. What does inadequate feedback look like?

At the fundamental level – my experience with my own education, my initial style of teaching, and what I am seeing with my daughter’s education might serve as a decent snapshot. I don’ t really think I have given kids a lot of personal feedback over the years and I don’t see my own child very aware of where she “is” in her understanding of what she is supposed to learn.

What if I did? What if along the way to mastering a skill I actually got to focus on how I could help them understand things more deeply and give them better critical analysis of a problem or phenomenon and also better critical analysis of where they are in their understanding . They might even feel more control over their success and perhaps some intrinsic value would start to set in. This sounds pretty crazy when I am supposed to teach them all at once! But I am re-thinking things… (insert SBG plug here)

What if those standardized tests were something I had access to giving as a parent? That I could pull up the NWEA on my home computer at any time and sit my darling dear there for an hour and see where she is lacking understanding. Then teachers and parents could be on the same page about skill levels and have meaningful discussion that extended beyond “work harder” and “study more”.

What if I had administrators really watching what I do and we could talk about the highs and lows of a lesson or assessment practice. What if the administrators really had a wealth of ideas to add to my collective experiences so each year I could refine my pedagogy. Perhaps other teachers could give me feedback and we could adopt Randy Nelson from Pixar’s concept of “Plussing”? ( )

What if politicians really had meaningful feedback about pedagogical processes? This is the biggest mistake public education has made. If there is any true criticism I have of my union membership, it may be that perhaps it made us too comfortable to think we would ever be attacked and have to justify why we do what we do. There has not really been a place or time where part of our jobs has been to record what we know to be effective. We may have thought it was someone else’s job to do so, but really how could they do that? If you are a teacher, you know – it is so organic. Only we can do it. It’s a bit like Einstein’s paper on relativity that sat for so long before people noticed how significant it was. We really have not even “written a paper” yet.

Let’s make this happen. The only way to fight the data driven war may be with more data. I have hatched up a plan inspired by reading posts about how schools and schools and public policy and even some unions are allowing non-educators continue to rule the roost. We can sit back stunned with our jaws dropped open at how ludicrous it all is, or we can get in the game and switch from defense to offense. We definitely need a name that makes a good acronym; this is education after all silly! Now taking suggestions…

I am making a binder, both virtual (perhaps on Evernote) and a paper copy. I am going to set that binder right by my desk and it is going to be filled with the research I have done to create what I currently believe is the best pedagogy for my discipline and the age level I teach. I considered labeling it THE BIG BINDER OF GO SCREW YOURSELF STANDARDIZED TEST PROFITEERS! OK – maybe not, but that’s what I want to call it.

So let’s get to some specifics… what could be in it.

• Section I: Research based pedagogy – for me it will include Modeling, Peer Instruction, and Project Based Learning to start

• Section II: Effective Assessment Practices Standards (Skills) Based Grading • Section III: Research not supporting test driven curricular decisions

• Section IV: Research on Effective Teacher Evaluation

• Section V: Research on effective implementation of Technology

• Section VI: Ideas for Administrators and Policy Makers • Section IV: The Tenure Law – several copies to hand out so I can show where it protects bad teachers (it doesn’t)

And then I will once again be listening to myself. And I do know I know more than the average Joe or Jane about teaching and learning 

Dirty Laundry Item #3 – stay tuned…