In a recent post, Seth Godin wrote:
What is it that you hope to accomplish? Not what you hope to measure as a result of this social media strategy/launch, but to actually change, create or build?
He was writing about a marketing strategy, but it struck me how strongly his description resembles assessment practices, particularly standardized tests. Standardized assessments are easy to calibrate, arbitrary, easily administered, and can be mistakenly confused with the purpose of education.
The purpose of our work is not to raise test scores but to grow learners. Yet, how many dollars are spent on testing? How much time and energy is spent on preparation for testing? How many kids are sorted and labeled as a result of testing? For all the cost - financial, emotional, time, and energy - how much does testing contribute to learning? We expend so much attempting to measure progress that we actually impede real learning.
Godin ends his post with the following statement: System innovations almost always involve rejecting the standard metrics as a first step in making a difference. We may not have the option of rejecting standardized tests, but unless we reject the notion that test scores are what matter, we won't be able to focus on the metrics that actually make a difference.
From 2006 through 2008 I blogged fairly regularly, posting more than 300 entries. As I look back over those, I find that some are as relevant today as they seemed then. Others show glimpses of my life that that may reveal a little more fully who I am. I will share one of these occasionally in a series I'll call Throwback Thursday.
Poverty continues to be a significant factor in the lives of students and their families. In the current political environment that appears to be chipping away at the fragile safety net that has evolved over time, this post from 2007 is perhaps more relevant today than it was then.
There is a chapter in Robert Lupton's Theirs Is The Kingdom entitled "The Truly Worthy Poor". I was reminded of this chapter this week as I was finishing Loretta Schwartz-Nobel's Growing Up Empty. Here is an excerpt from "The Truly Worthy Poor"...
A truly worthy poor woman: Is a widow more than sixty-five years old living alone in substandard housing; does not have a family or relatives to care for her. Has no savings and cannot work; has an income inadequate for her needs. Is a woman of prayer and faith, never asks anyone for anything but only accepts with gratitude what people bring her; is not cranky...
A truly worth poor family: Is devout, close-knit. Has a responsible father working long hours at minimum wage wherever he can find work. Has a mother who makes the kids obey, washes clothes by hand, and will not buy any junk food. Lives in overcrowded housing; will not accept welfare or food stamps even when neither parent can find work. Always pays the bills on time; has no automobile. Has kids who do not whine or tell lies.
I want to serve truly worthy poor people. The problem is they are hard to find. Someone on our staff thought he remembered seeing one back in '76, but couldn't remember for sure...
As I read the stories of individuals and families in Growing Up Empty I couldn't help but think that many of them resembled the tongue-in-cheek profile that Lupton described. One of the people interviewed for this book put it this way...
But there is a belief in our culture that if you work you will not be poor or hungry, and the truth is that many of the people who work, even the people who work full-time are very often poor and often very hungry. They never get above the poverty line... A lot of the people we see here simply can't make ends meet no matter how hard they work or how well they manage... Most have no medical benefits, so they have to choose between medicine, food and housing.
Confession: I'm a lapsed blogger...I have accepted the challenge to resume blogging, primarily as a means to reflect on my own learning. By sharing, perhaps there will be some benefit to others as well. Several years ago, I blogged regularly - below is a 10 year old post from July of 2007. Compared with the embedded YouTube video that follows, there is clearly a difference in the way the information is presented. See what else has changed...
If there was a village of 100 people representing the earth's more than 6 billion people, in the existing human ratios as they are in the world today, it would look something like the following:
61 would be from Asia
13 would be from Africa
12 would be from Europe
9 would be from Latin America & the Caribbean
5 would be from North America
52 would be female
48 would be male
70 would be non-white
30 would be white
31 would be Christian
21 would be Muslim
14 would be Hindu
6 would be Buddhist
12 would believe in other religions
16 would not be religious or identify themselvesas being aligned with a particular faith
82 would be able to read and write
18 would not
1 would have a college education
1 would own a computer
6 people would possess 59% of the entire world's wealth and all 6 would be from the United States.
80 would live in substandard housing
70 would be unable to read
50 would suffer from malnutrition
1 would be near death; 1 would be near birth
I woke up this morning with more health than illness...I am more blessed than the million who will not survive this week.
I have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture, or the pangs of starvation...I am more blessed than 500 million people in the world.
I can attend a church meeting without fear of harassment, arrest, torture, or death...I am more blessed than three billion people in the world.
I have food in the refrigerator, clothes on my back, a roof overhead and a place to sleep...I am richer than 75% of this world.