Wednesday, November 16, 2011

What Do We Measure?

Last night I found myself in a conversation on twitter with a handful of individuals in varying roles within education. Our discussion ended up essentially talking about what we measure in schools. Here is a snip of the conversation.

I reflected a great deal on this and found myself with a few questions.


What do we measure in schools?
This is the only question I felt I had a handle on. We measure student’s academic knowledge through grades, tests, and other data points. Myself, I use standards based grading where a student’s grade is solely based upon their ability to demonstrate mastery of a learning standard. I need to provide each student a grade in my classes and I choose to have those grades based completely on content knowledge. I don’t believe in inflating grades with homework or extra credit. While this may not be a perfect system, it is working for me and my students right now.

What do we teach that is not measured?
Lately, I have been focusing on having my students think outside the box and be more creative. Is creativity measured? Can it be? I am also working on building a cultural and global awareness within my students. Is that something I can have them “bubble in”? What about other life skills such as empathy and generosity as Dean suggested? None of these things are measured in schools even though they might be observed and noted. At the end of the day, there is not an “A-“ in empathy showing up on a student’s report card.

What should we be measuring?
With both of the previous questions in mind, what should we measure in schools? What is our purpose for measuring students, other than to see who grew two inches over the summer? J Is the reason for measurement to rank, sort, and track students? Is it possible that some of the most valuable life skills we teach in school are not measurable?

As with most things, I have more questions than answers. I feel as though educational culture is predisposed to measure everything and color code it on an Excel spreadsheet. What should we be measuring and what should we just observe and nurture? Are the life skills mentioned above difficult to define and therefore left out of the conversation when it comes to what we value about student learning while in schools?