Measuring by Observation

By Menschensindanders CC-BY-SA-3.0

Daniel Willingham has a post up explaining how the current measures states use to assess preschool quality are inaccurate.

He suggests that the cause of this may be that “Measuring things like years of experience and parental partnership is inexpensive and easy, and that’s nice. Someone at the school can submit this sort of data online. “

The data that states are using are isolated, easily gathered data points that someone sitting outside of that school thinks can demonstrate something inside of the school.

“Classroom measures, in contrast, are expensive. Someone with training has to actually observe what’s going on. That’s part of what goes into the “environment” measure, and it does look like that measure showed the most promise.”

I’ve talked about this problem before. A bunch of people that look at disaggregated data somewhere in a conference room far from a school think that they know what the quality of that school or teacher or student population is like. But you don’t know anything until you walk into a school, and you witness and listen to the interactions between the adults and other adults, the adults and the students, and the students and other students. Only then do you begin to get an idea.
So unsurprisingly, the same principle applies in preschool. Look at context. Look at what’s actually happening in the interactions in the classroom.
Lesson here to reform leaders: stop pretending that you can run a school without stepping foot in that school. Period.

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