tinker with text
Literacy-Based Maker Education
Tinkering with Data
I've been teaching for over 30 years now, and I used to find testing, test results, and data analysis quite fascinating. I no longer do and here's why:
1. Test scores only show how a student is performing on a certain day at a certain time, and questions and even whole subtests can be outdated or culturally/socio-economically insensitive (imo), which skew the results.
2. Percentiles are often misinterpreted as percentages, and they are not the same thing. Percentiles mean how the student is performing in relation to their peers. So, while they are not keeping pace with their peers, they are still learning. It can be confusing to see percentiles not improve and even go down.
3. Only anecdotal notes, observations, and qualitative data can show that the children's love of reading, getting "hooked" on a book series or author, developing reading stamina, the ability to discuss literature in a meaningful way (and how books and the discussion of them can be powerful change agents in their lives), and the use of reading strategies (self-monitoring, sense-making, using context clues, etc.) has improved. These are also very important factors in helping children to have success as readers.
4. Seeing a table full of low scores can be very disheartening for everyone involved, including myself (students - whom I would never show these scores to; parents – whom I only show upon request and in person; teachers – who don't always understand how to interpret the scores and may take it personally, eg. "Why didn't they improve after all our hard work?").
5. Education is one of the humanities, not one of the sciences (medical/psychological/social). The root word of humanities is human and I would much rather look at the whole child than reduce their abilities/growth/potential to a number. It's my belief that how we relate our findings about a child should also be conveyed with a human touch.
I hope to continue to experiment with new, empathic, and more accurate ways of showing student growth in my last few years of teaching. Please share your ideas and strategies. I'd love to learn from you.
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Vicki Den Ouden is an Elementary Reading Intervention Teacher from BC, Canada. She loves to dream, learn, teach, and create.