“Never in my career as a high school English teacher — as an instructor of reading and writing, as a purveyor of literature — have I been asked to collect more “student data” and create more “spreadsheets” than I have in the past several years.” – Barth Keck
Barth Keck is an English teacher and assistant football coach who also teaches courses in journalism and media literacy at Haddam-Killingworth High School.
You can find Barth Keck’s commentary pieces at http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/.
His latest piece is entitled “Numbers Don’t Lie, Unless Someone Wants Them To.”
“But science is where public education is hanging its hat right now, from the “metrics” applied to teacher evaluations to the data collected from standardized tests. And why not? Science turns a frustratingly nebulous concept — educational progress — into a black-and-white, numbers-don’t-lie picture.
If only it were so easy.
Call me a cynic, but numbers can lie. Or, at least, they can be manipulated by people who want to prove a point.
Take the recent results of the Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, which compares 15-year-olds in 65 global locations by their ability in math, science, and reading skills.
“Three years ago, I came here with a special report benchmarking the U.S. against some of the best performing and rapidly improving education systems. Most of them have pulled further ahead,” said Andreas Schleicher of the Department of Education. “The math results of top-performer Shanghai are now two-and-a-half school years ahead even of those in Massachusetts — itself a leader within the U.S.”
So there you have it — a scientifically-calibrated test proves that American students continue to fall behind schoolchildren from the rest of the world. A closer look, however, reveals a murkier picture.
“Tom Loveless, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said the school system in Shanghai is not equitable and the students tested are children of the elite because they are the ones allowed to attend municipal schools [due to] restrictions such as those that keep many migrant children out. ‘The Shanghai scores frankly to me are difficult to interpret,’ Loveless said. ‘They are almost meaningless’.”
While the corporate education reformers would dismiss Barth Keck since he is “only a school teacher,” those who care about our public schools and the students, parents, teachers and taxpayers who make up our education community would do well to read his pieces.
Barth Keck’s previous commentary piece on education policy can be read at CTNewsjunkie: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/op-ed_despite_extra_coaching_from_the_bleachers_wins_still_hard_to_come_by_/