Friday, December 5, 2014

Data, teaching, and education

"I love teaching, but I hate education."

-A veteran teacher

I heard a teacher say this today. I think she was referring to the new teacher evaluation system, which requires us to set quantifiable goals for student performance and then rates us according to whether we meet them or not.

While I think the current system is a bit misguided in it's emphasis on accountability as a driver for improving education, I doubt improvement is possible without a data-driven approach. Looking at the numbers, the "brutal facts" as they are called by Collins, is difficult, but it's the only way to know if we need to change. And we do.

This week I looked over the results of my latest chemistry test and realized that 25% of my students failed it. I also realized it was my fault. It was my failure. But we conducted what Collins calls an autopsy on that failure, and that opened the door to improvement. Next time, we'll do things differently.

I understand why many teachers recoil from the new system. But I think their fear (and that's what it is) may come from too narrow a focus. I think a focus on what I get out of teaching is the wrong focus. The right one is a focus on whether kids are learning (and whether they are all learning). That is, after all, my job. And that's education.

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