Posted Date: 07/24/2020
At the parent-teacher conference, I sat across the table from my first grader’s teacher in a chair made for a 6-year-old. The teacher pointed to percentages scrawled in red ink. I looked and listened.
“This number,” she said, “is his Lexile score.” She went on, moving her index finger across a table created by MetaMetrics. “Here’s the range of normal for his age. So, you want to have him reading books at this level.”
Her report of his math performance proceeded in much the same way: more percentages, ranges and “levels,” sometimes calculated from different copyrighted measures.
By this point, I was having difficulty following. I silently wondered: I have a Ph.D. in Teaching and Learning, and I don’t understand what these data say about my kid. What are other parents getting out of these meetings?
When the teacher paused for a breath, I leaned as far back as the tiny chair would allow. She looked up from the cascade of worksheets, catching my gaze. I seized the moment. “Do you ever get to talk to Mac?” I asked. “I mean, do you know what he likes, what he’s interested in? That’s a good way to select books for him, based on his interests.” MetaMetrics doesn’t know what gets Mac (not his real name) excited about learning. She smiled and relaxed back into her chair, too.
It is not enough to collect data about a student. I believe that data are no substitute for building rapport with young people. And yet, elementary to high school teachers who work well with data, the ones who know how to measure and speak from percentages, are doing the job right. This is teaching in the age of “big data.”