Monday, July 23, 2012

Why baseball helps me think about assessment

I'm a baseball fan. I love the game.

I live in Michigan so I'm also a Detroit Tiger fan.

Last week the Tigers sent a relatively young and inexperienced pitcher to the mound to face the Los Angeles Angels, one of the best teams in the American League.

The results were not very pretty. Jacob Turner gave up seven runs in two innings. The Tigers eventually lost the game 13-0.

The most interesting part of the evening for me were the comments after the game. Jim Leyland, the Tigers manager, was quoted in the Detroit Free Press after the game:

"He's just a kid who in my judgment isn't quite ready for this yet," manager Jim Leyland said after the game. "Am I upset with Jacob Turner? No. I think I'm being perfectly honest when I say this kid in the future (will be) toward the top of the rotation or a top-of-the-rotation guy that's not seasoned enough (yet) to pitch at this level with consistency."

What Jim Leyland did was base his opinion on performance.

In schools we are called upon to assess students every day. On occasion, throughout the year, we have special assessment days - state assessments, national standardized assessments, and other end-of-course or end-of-year assessments. 

These assessments give us information upon which we can base opinions about students. 

What they don't do is give us the final verdict on students. 

We might say, as Jim Leyland, did that a particular student, based on his or her performance, is not quite ready for the rigors of 4th grade or Algebra or Chemistry. 

But we should also be quick to add, as Jim Leyland did, that a student has the potential to perform at a higher level. Helping that student reach their potential and perform at a higher level is what we are supposed to be able to do through education. My hope is that we never use the performance on one assessment as the final judgment on any student and that we keep in mind that performance can be changed through education.  

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