Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Embracing Data

Last week, I sat in a room, in front of my Ipad for five hours being trained on a website that creates assessments and then analyzes the data from assessments.  It was organized, specific, thorough, systematic, and probably valuable, but definitely not my normal data collection process. 

My process is messy:  talking to kids, sitting in on small group discussion with my clipboard as I take notes on their comments, having them rewrite a specific body paragraph in their essay, or observing them look away sheepishly when I know they didn’t read last night’s homework assignment.

I guess I need to change my attitude.

The intellectual part of my brain realizes that analyzing data on my students should inform my instruction, fill in the holes, make the classroom experience complete.  As part time Literacy Coach next year, I will be the cheerleader for these homemade scantrons and the pie charts and bars these scantrons produce.  I must energize my colleagues that this is good stuff.

Why is that so hard for me?

Maybe I see the hours of work that it will take to create all of these tests, hours that will take me away from planning invigorating lessons that include movement, talking, writing, responding, and deep levels of analysis.  Instead of cutting butcher paper for a gallery walk and setting up chairs for a Harkness discussion, I will be grappling with pulldown menus offering randomization of bubble answers, so if my kids do cheat they will be screwed.

Oh no, I got all negative again.

I just see the joy sucked out of room 208 when administering these cold, calculated tests.  I see them love English just a little less or hate it a little more.  Many, many of my kids will go on to lead happy lives, yet not go on to college.  It is not where their heart takes them.  

Yesterday, I had my oil changed by a handsome 22 year old who had been a handsome 14 year old in my freshman English class.  He manages the local Valvoline, has plans to get married and buy a house.  He told me he “misses Mission Oak High School” and asked me if we still read A Midsummer Night’s Dream because he still remembers how funny it was that we got to say the word “ass” a million times.  He didn’t bring up the awesome CST tests or my multiple-choice benchmarks that I was mandated to use.  He remembers Bottom and the forest of fairies. He never wanted to go to college and never will; he makes a good salary and has plans to franchise the business.  I didn’t need to analyze his data; I needed him to love reading, if just for a minute.

I will make the assessments, I will give them, and I will run the Scantrons with their carefully #2 pencil colored orbs.  I will see if we should spend a little more time on point of view, or elaboration of evidence, or word choice.  I will then create juicy engaging lessons to address the holes, and desperately corral them back into loving my class...because that is where the real data collection begins...

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