Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Monday, November 29, 2010

Shael Polakow-Suransky Loves His Data

No surprise, but this guy is a data fetishist who relishes holding people "accountable."

If there's a takeaway here, it's that Polakow-Suransky is less a loyal Joel Klein flunky, as some critics have charged, than a thoughtful educator who has always been stirring up the same Kool-Aid as Klein and Bloomberg in terms of increased testing being the best way to ensure quality education. GothamSchools says that he's interested less in data itself than in how it can be used to change instruction; other education bloggers are less convinced.

The problem with the data fetishists - even ones like my man Shael here who claim they only want to use it to find the best way to ensure quality education - is that they privilege the data so much that any education decisions, lesson planning or curriculum decision that get made without data becomes naturally suspect.

The data becomes a means and an end.

Listen, I have no problem using a little data from ARIS or some other source to inform instruction or change some unit goals when I see from the data that things are going differently than expected.

But more often than not, I know this stuff already without the freaking data, and all the time I have to spend poring over that stuff takes time away from the actual lesson planning, grading, and other things I do as a teacher that make a good teacher.

Sometimes I leave these ARIS meetings after we've looked at three classes of results on the latest DOE multiple choice extravaganza wanting to tear my hair out.

I have said this before, I will say it again:

Teaching is more than data collection, collation and analysis.

Teaching is a craft, part performance, part inspirational, part educational.

There is soul to it.

The more data collection, collation and analysis I have to do, the less time, energy and spirit I have for the performance, the inspiration and the actual education.

I bet a man like Polakow-Suransky, seemingly more comfortable with numbers and stats than human beings, isn't going to understand that part of teaching.

But neither did Bloomberg or Klein, despite all the jive they talked over the years about "great teachers."

If they really wanted to ensure a quality education, they could start by fixing the hole in my classroom ceiling that has been spewing dust for over a year, they could get me a new set of August Wilson plays (Two Trains Running, please), they could fix the school heaters so they have a temperature gauge somewhere between 32 and 105, and they would lower my class size below 34.

But they're not interested in that stuff.

They're interested in "shocking the system," bashing teachers, busting the union, ending seniority rules so they can save a bunch of money on salary and pensions, and turning the system into one big KIPP/TFA thing where their education management organization and test prep companies can make bundles of yummy yummy education dollars.

Scary thing is, they're well on their way to hitting all their "benchmarks."

And Polakow-Suransky is part of that movement.

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