Monday, September 19, 2016

We are the data

I don't need data from a standardized test to tell me she is a reader. 
Finishing her first chapter book gives me the data I need.
I don't need to post her scores on some data wall in the hall.
I give her a plastic gold medal. 
I bow down to her reading powers. 
Trust me, 20-years from now she won't remember one single test score.
She'll remember that silly plastic gold medal, and that crazy professor who gave it to her for finishing her first chapter book.
She’ll remember that he praised her super reading powers, and bowed down to her greatness.
Celebrate reading successes.
Celebrate reading break through moments.
Children are not your data.
They are the future worth nurturing.
Our children are more than test scores.

Talk to teachers!
I posted the above picture and text on the Badass Teacher's Facebook page. I have been trying to capture what teachers really do. It doesn't fit any numerical data format. It's bigger than any quantitative measure these Ed Reformers are searching for.
Listen to the teachers.
Jeff, a teacher on the BAT page commented on the above: "Part of what inspired me to become a teacher was believing that we need more teachers like this, and deciding that I was willing to commit to becoming one of them."  In two lines Jeff captured what draws us to teaching. Teaching is more than a profession. I would argue teaching is a vocation that calls us to teach. We are drawn to an inner call to bring humanity to that school house. We have content, but content without humanity merely dehumanizes public education. We can learn a great deal from teachers like Jeff. There are millions of teachers out there, and they have been waiting for policy makers, legislators, and Ed Reformers to really "listen". Here is my response to Jeff, and every teacher out in our public schools. 
There is the data that counts, and then there is the data that really counts. The data that really informs. 
At the BAT March On Washington in 2015 I asked "Where is the humanity in Education Reform"? "Where is the humanity in their data"?
Since then I have been searching for our humanity, and I have found it. I found it not in our education policies, but in our teachers. The research is clear, teachers make the difference. You can't find the humanity in test scores, in graduation rates, or any other set of quantitative numbers. You have to see it; feel it; and observe it.  You can't see humanity on their data walls.  But it's there. It's there when you talk to teachers, their colleagues, the children, and the parents. This is why Value Added Measures, (VAM) have been such a dismal failure. Rubrics and numbers alone can never evaluate teaching.
What are we missing?
The study of history can inform our understanding of teaching. Can anyone imagine studying the Holocaust using only statistics? Where would we be without Ellie Wiesel's Night? What could we learn without the narratives of the survivors? In Night we come to see the horror, we feel the courage, we grasp the strength of a people who witness, who remember, who live, and who testify. Wiesel's shared that first human voice he remembers at Auschwitz.
“There's a long road of suffering ahead of you. But don't lose courage. You've already escaped the gravest danger:  So now, muster your strength, and don't lose heart. We shall all see the day of liberation. Have faith in life. Above all else, have faith. Drive out despair, and you will keep death away from yourselves. Hell is not for eternity. And now, a prayer - or rather, a piece of advice: let there be comradeship among you. We are all brothers, and we are all suffering the same fate. The same smoke floats over all our heads. Help one another. It is the only way to survive.”
What are the Ed Reformers missing? They're collecting test score data, but are dismissing the human voices! 

The numbers are killing us!
While these Ed Reformers are not killing teachers, they are demoralizing us, shaming us, and trying to silence us. By doing this to teachers these reforms in essence are dehumanizing our children. A teachers first primary responsibility is to advocate for their students? When you silence teachers you prevent them from their primary responsibility to advocate for children. When you prevent teachers from advocating for children you end up with a "School To Prison Pipeline". Research is clear when you over emphasize high stakes testing, behavior issues and schools suspensions will rise. It is no surprise Ed Reformers are turning to "No Excuses" tough love models and closing down local schools. They don't see children. They are fixed on the numbers. That's the data that matters to them. The real data, the data that really matters is us, teachers, children and parents; our stories are the data. When your public school system doesn't listen to children, parents and teachers, your public schools become our "School To Prison Pipeline".  
Where do we find the data that matters Dr. Turner? 
It's everywhere in our schools. Talk to our children, their parents and teachers. The data that really matter breathes, talks, walks, and sometimes bleeds. The data that really matters under NCLB, RTTT and yes ESSA is not valued by politicians, policy makers, and Ed Reformers. But the data that really matters is everywhere.  Social media is helping to collect the only data that really matters.
Over a hundred years of education research points to one truth. Teachers make a difference. You won't find the humanity or the data that matters most in quantitative data. The humanity resides in the qualitative data. Numbers alone give us a cold picture. Teachers bring humanity to the classroom, and it's the humanity that will give us the answers, the answers that have the power to transform teaching. See the child, not the score. When we see the child. We see the teacher. When we see them both we see the humanity. When we see the humanity. We see what works and what is not working. When we starting listening to children and teachers? We'll find the beginning place for transformational teaching and learning.  
We are the humanity.
We are the data, 
Jesse The Walking Man Turner

If you like to hear what this Walking Man was listening to on his walk this morning...
The Omagh Community Youth Choir Love Rescue Me

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