By Mary-Dean Barringer, All Kinds of Minds CEO
The U.S. House Labor and Education Committee will hold a hearing in Washington D.C. on April 14 to examine how the use of data systems in schools across the country can help improve educational outcomes. This is a critical part of looking at how they will reauthorize No Child Left Behind (NCLB).
Snooze. Wake me up when Congress decides to hold a hearing on how good data—and the right kind of data—can help improve student learning.
Accurately measuring growth in learning requires that we develop rich data portraits of learners. There is clear value in taking periodic snapshots of student progress that formative and summative tests provide. These snapshots can identify academic “hot spots” and red flags that indicate a weak skill area. But as a nation, we’ve overlooked the importance of supplementing test data with the qualitative observations that often unmask the root of learning breakdowns or discover previously unseen talents. These observations can be critical to creating pathways to student success.
We know from research that minds are uniquely wired, creating individual learning profiles. Neuroscience and developmental perspectives inform the assessment that can occur when educators dig a little deeper to know their students as learners. There are many observational protocols that provide multiple sources of qualitative data. This creates a rich description of evidence to better inform instructional decisions, as we describe in Chapter 4 of our book, Schools for All Kinds of Minds.
But my guess is that no witness invited to the hearing will discuss this type of innovation that we need in our assessment practices. And that’s too bad, because we might have started the discussion of our need for the new NCLB—Now, Children Learning Better.
Contact your House representative to help them understand the importance of looking beyond test scores to measure student learning.