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Turning Children Into Data?

September 6, 2010

Recently, I read an essay in Education Week by Alfie Kohn titled, “Turning Children into Data – A Skeptic’s Guide to Assessment Programs.”  Mr. Kohn is noted (think outspoken critic) for many of his positions related to the grading and testing practices that are prevalent in schools across the country.  He begins with a quote from Albert Einstein

Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.

He goes on to make several interested points about the growing use of “data” as a buzz word that drives need for additional assessments to create more data….   Here is an excerpt:

In attempting to track and boost achievement, do we damage what’s most critical to long-term quality of learning:  students’ desire to learn?  It’s disturbing if a program is so preoccupied with data and narrowly defined skills that it doesn’t even bother to talk about this issue.  More important, look at the real-world effects:  Once a school adopts the program, are kids more excited about what they’re doing — or has learning been made to feel like drudgery?

As I think about Saline Area Schools and our use of data, I feel like we are walking the line…. seeking and using data to provide us feedback on how our students are learning, while still focusing on developing critical thinking skills and the desire for lifelong learning.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Matt permalink
    September 6, 2010 9:02 pm

    I think the most important characteristic of data is relevance. Data is more useful to administrators because they are responsible for a large number of students. Data is more relevant to them because it allows them to gauge the impact of several factors on the end product for the many students they are responsible for. Teachers, who are responsible for a small number of students, will probably find data less relevant to their jobs. This is especially true when data is contrasted with over available tools towards helping their smaller group of students succeed, such as parental contact and one-on-one support.

  2. Pete Kudlak permalink
    September 7, 2010 8:45 pm

    Matching the concentration on data with the theories of Project-based learning that has been ascribed to in Saline seems to be a nice balance. The learning is desired and relevant and the growth is measured and analyzed: a nice combination.

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