Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Ode to Protocol

More and more, I feel like what we do as teachers is becoming more and more clinical. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. Being able to analyze student data in a sensible way can be a powerful tool for helping kids learn at their level.

However, there seems to be a fine line that is easy to cross when it comes to this approach. Too often, too much importance is placed on a single standardized test score. A snapshot of a child's ability, taken one afternoon on a computer, shouldn't be the only piece of evidence used for placement and teaching practices. Our district is good at trying its best to avoid this, but sometimes it can just happen. High or low, good or bad, these scores need to be coupled with past performance, teacher observation, and different standard scores to help find the best fit for students. Sometimes, I feel teacher/classroom input can be neglected, even though it is the teacher offering the professional observations.

This brings up the next point...protocol for student discussion at team meetings. It is probably a healthy thing to have some type of established pattern, or set of norms, for talking about students in a constructive manner. That said, the impression given at times is that certain things discussed are irrelevant, when it could be argued that these factors are indeed very relevant. If a student's parents are going through a rough divorce; if a family member passed away; if the student has attendance issues/shows up late/always wears the same clothes/falls asleep in class/seems unhappy/had older siblings with similar patterns...these variables all seem like they are important enough to include with student dialgue.

We can't narrow our focus so much that we lose sight of some very important things: teacher-student connection/relationship, professional observations, and constructive dialogue. Coupling these practices with effective data use can be a great way to serve kids better moving forward.

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