Monday, June 15, 2009

Topic: Data-Driven Schools

10-second review: Teachers are, through technology, tracking students’ progress, individually and in groups, almost instantly. If, for example, a very young child is able to read only 95% of words accurately, he or she is immediately placed in a special center to give instant help to achieve 100% accuracy.

Title: “Data-Driven Schools See Rising Scores.” John Hechinger. Wall Street Journal (June 12, 2009), Internet.

Summary: Using statistics and anecdotes, Hechinger supports the Montgomery County, Maryland, Schools’ contention that individual students receive quick help when needed, and groups of students do too. Large central database spews out data that is studied for patterns, with reaction following quickly.

“The high-tech strategy…uses intensified assessments and real-time collection of test scores, grades and other data to identify problems and speed up interventions….” p. 1 of 6.

Everything from students who are suddenly and uncharacteristically failing, to using PSAT scores to encourage minorities to take Advanced Placement courses is identified and responded to.

Those unhappy with the very expensive system say that there is too much testing and not enough emphasis on creativity. At least in this article, these objections seem weak and unimpressive.

Comment: Quick intervention with individual and group problems is the purpose of this expensive technological system. I was particularly impressed with notifying parents when a student was beginning to fail. It’s not only standardized tests but also teachers’ personal tests and students' grades that supply the data on each student’s progress.

Hechinger makes the system look good. I know that when I was teaching I could see students beginning to fail and could do practically nothing about it. Data on test scores, compositions, etc. would provide real evidence that could alert students, counselors and parents to do something about it.

That part of the program I like. To the degree that too much testing and test preparation replace teaching I don’t like. It has the feel of industrialization, that we are producing a product, a test score, instead of educating.

Quick response is good, especially if we know and understand what we are responding to. What I like about this system is that it goes well beyond standardized test scores. Teachers teach and provide data on individual and group performance. That data could be as interesting to the student as it is to the teachers or parents. From my point of view, the teacher must make a decision when to supply such data. RayS.

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