Data Bound and Data Gagged: How Teachers are Made Ineffectual and Silent

Worse yet with the prospect of schools being closed, the people who made the conscious choice to be political figures in the classroom suddenly find that their own prospects of bread are being methodically yanked out from under them as they are simultaneously anointed the pariahs. This initially looks like it’s a sensible situation: if schools are failing he teachers than helped it fail should be punished. But, alas, more often than not teachers are not at fault. All the while as the walls fall in on them, they are required to collect more and more “exacting” kinds of data to find out where instruction is breaking down, which adversely affects the way in which they are instructing…and in many ways is a participatory factor in the breakdown of instruction and the effectiveness of the schools over all.

The collection of data has become synonymous with thoughtful instruction—which again at first glance isn’t a bad idea. However the measurement methods that are utilized are enterprises that monopolize the entirety of lessons and planning. The instruction becomes tailored to prepare students for the tests which focus on a few statistically predictable points of academia. Planning for these tests is executed by looking at the data from previous tests; the data from the next test will be used to prepare for the one after that and inevitably what we have is a series of high stakes examinations that collect data for the sake of collecting data.

The emphasis has been shifted from measuring the data for the betterment of the student’s education to measuring the data to craft the student’s limited skills to achieve a higher score on the examination. You may ask “So what?”. Well that’s where it gets tricky—there are an innumerable number of measures to be conducted periodically, annually, and semi-annually. Essentially a teacher is constantly preparing for one standardized examination or another. The collection of this data becomes the impetus, which the data itself is either nebulous once aggregated or so measure specific that it is hard to assimilate it into one’s practice. Even if the data was easily assimilated and utilized to steer practice, there are so many measures, so often, with so much paperwork involved (and the “best practices” of others which may or may not be compatible with your personal style of…anything) that there aren’t enough hours in the day to look at the data, let alone interpret it.

What we have in education is (at best) a culture of collecting data for the sake of data and (at worst) a culture of collecting data that nobody is utilizing to proper means. The collection of data and the emphasis is so weighted and encompassing—and draining—that teachers are too tired, busy, weakened to advocate against it. Worse yet, we are beaten in the head to think that publicly speaking out against these measures is somehow paramount to arguing for scene without accountability; a wild west of education where the law is defined by the end of one’s pointed stick of chalk. That is not the case. Teachers don’t fear accountable measures of their instruction or of their student’s progress, however it simply isn’t fair to cheat students from their proper educations by forcing kill and drill practice as the norm. In absolute terms: standardized exams and data collection methods do not teach children a damned thing. They are a top down bureaucratic method of passing the buck to teachers, justifying upper echelon jobs, and privatizing the school system. Teachers have been data bound and data gagged.

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