The Abstraction of Numbers

A good decision is based on knowledge and not on numbers.

We live in a data-driven world.  The watch on your wrist not only tells you the time, but can track your food intake, calories burned, steps taken during the day, and sleep patterns.  We have the ability to check our financial portfolios in real time, and we can literally get news by the minute on our phone.  There is no shortage of information and data in our 24/7 connected world, and we can analyze this data and make conclusions based on it with the push of a button.

Education has not been immune to this “all-data-all-the-time” trend.  We have reams and reams of academic data that help us to make decisions on the best way to teach children.  I am a proponent of data-informed decision-making, and I truly believe that testing data serves a purpose.  I also believe that schools should be held accountable for results.  What I don’t buy into, however, is the idea that testing data is the be-all/end-all of education.

I recently read Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek, and in it he discusses the abstraction of data.  The basic premise is that when we reduce any group to simple numbers, we lose sight of what we’re trying to do.  Applying that to education, we need to remember that kids are so much more than a score on a test or a number on a piece of paper.  Learning is not a linear process; it is often messy and looks different for every child.  By expecting every child to hit an arbitrary number by the end of a unit of study, is counterproductive to a growth driven focus.  This being the case, it doesn’t make sense to expect straight A’s or exemplary scores on all assessments.  When looking at learning, we need to first and foremost take a growth approach and not expect that every child will be in the same place once the lesson is over.  We want every child to make growth, and depending on his/her learning situation, that can look different for every child.

At HMS and WJHS, we understand that test scores are only one piece of a complex learning puzzle. We seek to evaluate each student on qualitative as well as quantitative ones.  Our teachers spend time getting to know each child as a learner AND a person, and are able to better tailor instruction to various students’ unique needs and learning styles.  Our special education staff and differentiation specialists create supports/enrichment that will ensure that all students will make anticipated growth.  As another component to this process, we also carefully review assessment data to get a clear picture of each child as a learner and ensure that each child gets what he/she needs to be truly successful, which is often shown by so much more than just a great score on a test.

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