Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Test Score Derivatives and Property Values

At the last Board of Education meeting we received a set of SAT test score figures dutifully compared to similar other schools and EO Smith did better than in the previous year. so we dutifully and ritualistically examined this number and that number and genuinely gleaned some pride in the student's relative success.

Of course the minute you try to come to a conclusion about what all the numbers might be telling us, we're warned there isn't enough data to actually do anything with so basically the scores are pretty much worthless accept as a form of town vs town reading, writing, and math handicap metric for those who might be betting on such comparisons.

A year earlier, when scores were received that were much lower, I suggested that we not pay too much attention to the scores as they would fluctuate up and down from no real pedagogical phenomenon other than a different group of kids taking the test.

But when scores go down, the reaction was not so ho hum. The response is more like, "But our housing prices are tied to these scores!"

Ah, the good old days when housing prices were mythologically coupled to test scores of the shiny students living in those artificially priced homes.

Those days are gone thanks to the Wall St meltdown. Some of the high-stakes of testing are gone now. Homeowners can get off the asses of students to get ever-higher test scores for the sake of leveraging the worth of a home to the next impossibly extravagant magnitude of worth.

You see, schools bought into this fantasy as much as anyone. Our curriculum includes courses that examine stock market issues because we wanted our students to be able to navigate the financial reality of the day.

But we weren't alone. Colleges, universities, and high schools all over America studied this stuff. And you know what? For all the study, nobody asked the critical questions that could have averted the disaster to come.

Isn't it funny that the one thing most worth learning - critical thinking - has been sanitized out of the system so that the system could delude itself into a state of sudden fiscal self-immolation.

We need to open schools back up to thinkers, bullies, gifted teachers, imperfect students, rebels, poor boys, bastards, knuckleheads, teachers who offend our taste, people who don't share our values, kids who want to be left alone, kids who get socially promoted, kids who can't read, or write, or do math but who make the kid next to them wonder what the hell they might be thinking.

Critical thinking doesn't come as cheaply as real estate these days. It comes as a tension between the complacent and the outrageous. And that's a good thing.

1 comment:

rhyre said...

>We need to open schools back up to thinkers,
>bullies, gifted teachers, imperfect students,
>rebels, poor boys, bastards, knuckleheads,
>teachers who offend our taste, people who
>don't share our values,
>kids who want to be left alone,
>kids who get socially promoted,
>kids who can't read, or write, or do math
>but who make the kid next to them wonder
>what the hell they might be thinking.

>Critical thinking doesn't come as cheaply
>as real estate these days.
>It comes as a tension between the complacent
>and the outrageous. And that's a good thing.

I believe we have that environment. It's just not in the four walls of a school building any more - it's happening on the Internet, and most of the schools are not noticing.