Thursday, September 13, 2012

Keep away from Data

While most data is collected on children deals with their learning , the damage is even greater when data is collected  refers to behavior  and used to give kids diagnoses and labels if he does certain things  x times during the last 6 months or used to assess  static skill level.

Back in the 50s, a prominent psychiatrist named Thomas Szasz characterized psychopathology as “problems in living.”  A child's behavior has to be seen in a dynamic environment where the compatibility or incompatibility between parent , teacher and child can be explored and whether the child is developmentally on target with his life skills.

Rachelle Sheely a RDI – Relationship development intervention expert for challenging kids, especially those on the autistic spectrum says in her blog  that we should understand the difference between static –intelligence data and dynamic intelligence  Rachelle Sheelely RDI letter - Data
'Let me begin by saying that there seems to be a strong correlation between high test scores and doing well in school when the basic curriculum is designed for the tests. This makes sense; if you teach that Austin is the capital of Texas and you then ask on as test, "what is the capital of Texas", the group scores in the classroom will indicate that it has been taught and that the children can answer the question.  

Like tests of content mastery, standardized IQ scores also find a place in predicative correlations for large groups of people. But what does each of these measure? They measure static skills - what you know; not how you approach a problem or use the information to approach new problems, how you figure out how to answer a question or what you will do with the information once you know it. Like many of you, I have my own history of cramming and forgetting.

This brief blog today, then, is a warning to be suspicious of the implied meaning of scores. RDI™ is interested in education with a different twist; experience-based learning as it relates to Dynamic Intelligence. We are interested in how persons on the spectrum approach and solve problems and whether or not they can think. While a quantifiable analysis may be difficult to construct, not so difficult is a snapshot of experiential interactions.

Especially important to this discourse is that with very few exceptions, standardized tests don't predict an adult quality of life for a person on the spectrum. Dynamic Intelligence, related to experience based learning and dynamic decision making, much more so. In the end, we concern ourselves with our children's future selves-their executive functioning, self-management, organization, focus and volition.'

Quotes on data from  blog

Albert Einstein once said, "Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted." He hung this sign above his desk at Princeton University.

Data is very limiting mostly because it tends to conceal more than it reveals.

If we want to reclaim data, and we do need to, we need to stress that real learning is found in children not data. The best teachers never need tests to gather information about children's learning nor do they need grades to share that information with others. They know that there is no substitute for what a teacher can see with their own eyes when observing and interacting with students while they are learning, and any attempt to reduce something as magnificently messy as real learning will only ever conceal more than it will reveal. I might go so far as to say that the best educators in the 21st Century understand that "measurable outcomes may be the least significant results of learning" except that this has been true in every century. 

This kind of data will only lead teachers to better predict a kid's chances of passing or failing a test  than actually knowing the kid as a human being - as a learner.

There's a reason why Gerald Bracey once said:

There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all.

The greatest failure of trusting test scores more than teachers is that teachers might know more about how to improve a student's test score than they know the student.

Data is dehumanizing.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

First CPS , then do RT - restorative justice

Exposing teachers to the Self Determination theory of motivation can be very helpful in moving teachers away from a focus on 'compliance' where teachers rely on rewards and punishments ,  to a focus on community , a commitment to values and solving problems in a collaborative way.  

SDT posits that when a child's needs for autonomy, competence and relatedness are met , he will become a responsible , competent and  a caring student.  Rewards , consequences and punishments  not only don't  teach lagging skills – competence  or solve the underlying problem , but impact negatively on ' relatedness ',  and the intrinsic and autonomous  motivation of a student to engage in collaborative problem solving and restitution.

Some schools have been moving away from punishments and adopting a ' restorative justice system ' approach to discipline.  Schools that still see accountability as having a student pay a price or make amends tend to still impose  ' restitution ' and making amends  in a top-down manner .  

When we frame accountability as a commitment to values , the focus is firstly on actually solving the problem in collaborative and durable way which is the ultimate of accountability , and then the kid can engage in an autonomous way in the act of restitution and make  amends.  Making amends may indicate that the student is remorseful and does not want to repeat the behavior , but as Dr Greene says – if we don't come up with a mutually satisfying solution to the underlying problem , the kid will be ' making amends ' over and over again.

The question is what comes first – CPS collaborative problem solving or making amends / restitution. ?

The Jewish new  year – Rosh Hashanah is also the day of judgment. About 10 days later we have Yom Kippur , where Jews fast and pray for atonement for their sins over the past year.

The obvious question is -  should we first not try to deal with the past and atone for our sins before the day of judgment , should not Yom Kippur come before Rosh Hashanah ?

The answer is that true accountability means coming up with a better plan, solving problems and creating a vision for the future. We have to free ourselves from the past which can inhibit our vision and  keep us  tied down when we try to create our vision. Only then , after creating our vision  can we deal with the past . On Rosh Rashana we stand before God as people with a new vision or new plan. We say we are not the same person , we have changed, judge us according to our new vision and commitment. On Yom Kippur we deal with our pasts , and atone for our sins.

The same goes for CPS. We have to free the kid from the negativity of fixing the past and making amends  and first focus on his concerns. In restorative justice we first focus on the victim's concerns. In CPS , we start with the kid's concerns and his vision.

Once he comes up with a solution for the problem that also addresses his concerns and has a new vision of the future,  he will be in a better position to autonomously engage in restitution etc. The quality of restitution and making amends after CPS will be totally different than when RT – restorative justice precedes CPS.