Data Obsession

In the 2011-12 school year, my school district was ranked #7 in the biggest 200 Texas Public School Districts, according to the Texas Education Agency’s Academic Excellence Indicator System (AEIS). If we had graduated 16 more students that year, we would have earned the #3 spot.

Take a moment to absorb that.

In our pre-school staff convocation, the information above was the main topic of discourse… obviously.  Because numbers never lie.

A few minutes ago, I got off the phone with another teacher in my district.  He informed me that this would be his last year teaching, and when I asked him why, he responded, “There is no success.”  He told me that, if you look at the numbers, he isn’t a very good teacher.

You see, a few years ago, he was certified as an AP English teacher.  His students did so well that year on their AP exam that in subsequent years, more and more students were added to his AP classes.  He told me that many of them don’t want to be in AP English.  That many of them don’t want to read books.  And if you know anything about AP English classes, you know how much more difficult they are when you hate to read.

Now comes the inevitable question: Why are those kids taking AP classes if they don’t want to do the work?

Well.  Let me tell you why.

Because it looks really good on paper.  “Oh! Forty percent of your students are taking AP classes?! That’s amazing!  How dedicated they must be!”  Not.

So, when he told me that he doesn’t think that he’s a good teacher, I disagreed with him.  I told him that the things that really matter can’t be counted.  The response I got was that as soon as I become an administrator, my views on that would change – I’d be brainwashed, just like the rest of them.

So, tell me… are data-driven administrators killing schools?

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