This year I’ve had the good fortune to also read Malcom Cladwell’s Tipping Point andOutliers as well as a book called Nurture Shock, by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman.  These authors write wonderful exploratory narratives inspired by playing with data.  Each book has examples of data that has been mininterpreted, under applied, or counter intuitive.  Richard Rothstein’s The Way Were Were? focuses in on the delightful subjectivity of data an gave me both a sense of hope and despair for ever sorting out our education system.

Two quotes particulary stuck with me:

Q:  If Americans believe their schools perform more poorly than they used to, reforms will be designed differently from reforms aimed to improve a satisfactory institution.  It is difficult to make a careful assessmet of schools’ ills and successes, or to develop a plan to improve them, if myth gets in the way….  p. 31

Q:  How can I simmer this down to my own classroom or school?  What myths am I in the midst of that might be misguiding my evaluations?

C:  I could copy the rest of this paragraph as I felt it was the cornerstone of the whole book for me.  In all our efforts to improve it seems we are constantly blinded or distracted by things that turned out to not be the real issue at all.  In my classroom, I seem to go through cycles of thinking my instruction is brilliant or miserable–one week the students are on fire, producing amazing work, focused and collaborative like pros.  The next, they give me the classic blank stare, bicker with each other, and fail half the quiz.  What am I doing wrong?! I wonder.  Or, does it even have to do with me?  And, of course, if my state test scores come back high, did I do a good job?

On the flip side, our school happens to have a uniform policy which convinces many parents that we are practically a private school and obviously do not have behavior issues.  While this isn’t necessarily a harmful perception to have out there, are we really upholding an academic and behavioral environment that matches the perception?

I am beginning to really appreciate the complexities of data.  It is a powerful tool and distractor.

Q:  Certainly, we will never all be above average.  p. 111

C:  HA!  This popped out at me as a hilarious truth and one of the funniest things about data: every time performance changes, what is “average” changes.  Even when we try to have criteria-based tests, we are basing the criteria on what the “average” candidate should be able to do to be “proficient.”  So if educators miraculously helped every student test “proficient” or “advanced,” the average student would be the majority.  Anyway, just a funny play on words and meanings and terminol

5/9/2012 08:27:49 pm

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