Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Technology in the Classroom: Professor Swift's New Method to Increase Test Scores

I have written a number of posts in which I have espoused the idea that athletics can be used to improve achievement in academics. I posited that many athletic principles can be viewed as life principles. Often I point out that our book, The 10 Commandments of Baseball offers some great principles that can be used in other areas for improving achievement. I find more and more that others advocate technology to fix most every problem in our world today.

If you follow education development, you know many people are constantly advocating new technology to improve academic achievement. Essentially, they advocate schools buy software to test Johnny to find out if he can read or not-- and then buy more software that can teach him to read. Lately they also advocate software to determine if Johnny's teacher can teach.

There are many stories on recent education technology developments. Here are a few items that I spotted:

1. States are collecting test data, but not very good at using it.
2. Software that can predict behavior—predictive analytics—can help schools see what lies ahead for students by looking at how they have done in past.
3. More frequent testing is needed so that more frequent intervention can be used at more frequent intervals.
4. Studies are looking at a value-added model for teacher valuation. The model first predicts student's future achievement based on past performance and then measures any upside in the actual future performance under a specific teacher.

After reading articles on these developments, my head started to spin--were any of these initiatives worthwhile? When I can't figure things out, I sometimes call an educational guru that I know, Professor Johnny Swift of Dublin. I wanted to share my recent line of inquiry with Swift here:

SCP Larry: Professor, studies are showing that in some places much education data is being collected on student performance, but not used. What are your thoughts?

Professor Swift: Data will always run free and have its own way. Collecting data is like collecting field mice in your house and then letting them go free in the back yard. They only get back into the house and poop all over it. You have to kill the data or stop wasting your time collecting it.

SCP Larry: Professor, much is being written about predictive analytics--looking at what's gone on with students to determine future outcomes. What are your thoughts?

Professor Swift: Well, I used to think that understanding how a student did in the previous grade was helpful. But then there were many researchers saying that a teacher was better off having no preconceived notions. They said that students performed to levels of teacher expectation so keep the teacher ignorant of any past experience. I am glad to hear it's going back to the old way, know your enemy before the term starts and plan accordingly.

SCP Larry: Professor, how about the idea of frequenting testing that can lead to more frequent intervention? What are your thoughts?

Professor Swift: I always gave my students a lot of tests and found frequent punishment was better than just giving them a whack every once in a while. But I don't like the idea of computers to help me--they just screw up too often and it's always bad when you whack the wrong kid. If you don't want to correct all those papers, have the student up at the chalkboard and if they screw up you can see it real time and punish accordingly.

SCP Larry: Professor, what are your thoughts on the value-added model for teacher valuation. This model predicts student's future achievement based on past performance and then measures any upside in the future performance of the same student under a specific teacher.

Professor Swift: Ah yes, we did this long ago in our fresh air room classes.

SCP Larry: How did that work professor?

Professor Swift: Well, we used to take poor students who did not respond to our various methods and toss them all in one classroom. Then we'd open the windows wide. The idea was that if we couldn't teach them anything, they'd still get plenty of fresh air to breathe. Every once in a blue moon, we would take a student from the fresh air room and toss them into a classroom with an actual teacher. Against all odds, if that student improved, we would increase the teacher's salary by a dollar.

SCP Larry: A dollar an hour?

Professor Swift: No, a dollar a year. We weren't made of money in those days you know.

SCP Larry: Professor, you were famous for your proposal on how to reduce the number of poor children back in Ireland. Any big ideas for us here in the states on education?

Professor Swift:Yes, I have one idea that is guaranteed to increase test scores for many years. Throw the lowest 10% of the students out the door each year. Chase them away from the school building and make sure they don't come back. You'll see your average test scores jump right through the ceiling.

SCP Larry: Can technology help in this effort?

Professor Swift: Yes, use a shredder to destroy their student IDs on the way out.

Copyright 2012 Sporting Chance Press

Sporting Chance Press is the publisher of J.D. Thorne's The 10 Commandments of Baseball: An Affectionate Look at Joe McCarthy's Principles for Success in Baseball (and Life) and other fine sports books. The 10 Commandments of Baseball is a treasure of sports lessons for all ages. The 10 Commandments of Baseball is an enjoyable mix of professional baseball stories and the author's affectionate retelling of his own amateur baseball experiences. Whether male or female, young or old, the reader is pulled into great baseball moments that make the baseball commandments come to life with compassion and humor. The focal point of the book is the classic, but little-known, 10 Commandments of Baseball, the baseball principles created by Major League baseball's most successful manager, Joe McCarthy. To Order.