Monday, October 15, 2012

Do numbers lie?

My wife and I went to see the movie "Trouble With the Curve." Clint Eastwood plays Gus, an irascible old baseball scout who believes you have to see a player play before you can tell if he will be any good.

Matthew Lillard plays Phillip Sanderson, the new age "moneyball" kind of scout who believes that everything you need to know about a baseball player can be found by looking at the stats on a computer.

Joe Massingill plays Bo Gentry, the high school baseball phenom.

Gus knows the numbers but wants to go up and see the Bo play.

Phillip doesn't think anyone needs to go see Bo play - after all the statistics are right there on the computer.

Gus knows you can look good on paper but be a lousy ball player.

Phillip thinks that numbers tell the whole story.

Gus thinks numbers can lie. Or at least he thinks numbers don't give you all the information that you need.

As I watched the movie I thought about the MEAP tests. These state assessments during the month of October will provide us with numbers.

But numbers, as Gus knows, can lie. Or, perhaps more charitably, numbers don't tell me everything I need to know about a student.

I get lots of numbers from the MEAP test, but do I get what I need to know?

Is all I need to know about a student revealed when I look at at a student's score on the MEAP test?

Or skip the MEAP test. Is what I need to know about a student seen when I look at how they did on the NWEA or the ACT or the EXPLORE or the PLAN or the CAT?

Or is there something else I should look at and look for?

The answer for me is easy.

I need numbers. I need some external measure of success. Standardized achievement tests do that. They give me an external measure that I can use to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of a student.

But numbers can lie.

I also need a skilled teacher to tell me if a student has the courage to struggle to find an answer.

I need a teacher to work with and watch a student so the teacher can tell me if that student has the capacity to work with others, share information, and be part of a team.

I need a teacher to observe how students organize ideas, develop thoughts, and apply what they know to new and novel situations.

Just like Gus, I need to see a student not just look at the numbers.

The measure of a student is revealed by how she does on an achievement test.

Just as importantly, the measure of a student is also revealed by how well she does working with others and living in the world.

No comments:

Post a Comment