Lewis suggests that success can be predicted when all but the most important data is thrown aside. At least that’s what Oakland Athletics front office folks figured out.
Critics of schools justifiably looked at world-wide performance in math and literacy - comparing us to them - then, like the man in Tiananmen Square a few decades ago, stood in front of our line of tanks and said, essentially: “Wait a minute.”
Educational leaders, legislators, and the publishing houses that found they could make a dime off of this discord immediately jumped on a bandwagon of testing each and every thing a kid was supposed to know. This will have proven to be a necessary step, but one with enormous costs in terms of instructional time, one which yields rafts of statistics, but few of which are of actual value.
THE TASKS BEFORE us as educators are to:
- specifically determine which data from which assessments measures success, and then
- focus on curriculum content and instructional strategies that contribute to the necessary and desired measurable student performance.
Does that invite us to teach to a more limited test?*
Absolutely not. We must demand of ourselves that all students receive a broad curriculum grounded in knowledge but richly steeped in problem solving, critical thinking and creativity. Evidence of our success will appear as student performance beyond simply the Scantron sheet.
Great! That means we can bag interim assessments and annual tests, right?
Wrong. What is means is that we make professional decisions about our assessments based on the select data that we know will serve as predictor of success later on in the student’s academic progression and ultimately in the student’s life.
Job one is to identify assessments that don’t lend themselves to this task and see that they receive less of our time, and less of our attention. Perhaps, some just need to be thrown aside.
The immediate result? More time to actually teach.
* Shame on us for having been cowed into “teaching to the test.” When we teach the curriculum kids’ll do well on the test; when we teach to the test, they’ll miss out on huge swaths of curriculum and we are guilty of malfeasance.
Lewis, Michael: Moneyball. New York: W. W. Norton and Company. 2004.
Church of the Open Road Press