From voodoo to statistics. . .

At a dinner I was recently a part of, Robert Eaker—Rick DuFour’s co-author and colleague—said this:

“The range of teacher strategies for identifying student learning difficulties across a hallway in a single school building runs from voodoo to statistics.”

His central point resonated with me because I know that I’ve personally struggled with assessment of student learning for years.

Even though I’m considered to be a highly accomplished teacher, I’m not sure I can reliably judge the strengths and weaknesses of the students in my classroom.  I honestly suspect that “measurement error” (in the lingo of those driven by standardized testing) is probably quite high in my room–both in my comparisons between students and in my comparisons of multiple tasks submitted by the same student.

Do you think that statement is true for your classroom?  How about your grade level or school?  If it is true, how does that reality impact your efforts to help every child learn?  How does it harm the standing of our profession in the eyes of the general public?  Does it cheapen who we are when our responses aren’t–in some degree—standardized and automatic?

Have you seen a change over time in the kinds of strategies used by teachers to identify student learning difficulties?  If so, what’s caused that change—and is it a change that we should embrace as a profession?  Do your colleagues embrace it?

Final question:  Have you ever felt fully prepared to identify student learning difficulties?  What was the key to that preparation?  Has that confidence and ability ever been effectively spread across your entire building?

Looking forward to your responses!

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