## Friday, June 26, 2015

### Are Statistics a True Measure of Learning in Schools?

"Let’s face it. School evaluations are ruled by statistics these days. Teachers are being evaluated by how well their students are doing on standardized tests. Student end of year grades are being influenced by their statistical performance on standardized tests because those measurements are now being averaged as a percentage of those grades." continues Clarksville Online.

 Photo: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Statistics is a branch of math that is involved with looking at numerical data and interpreting what those numbers mean.

Let’s put aside the statistical possibility that a child might have had a bad night the night before the test (like the police arriving to take a parent to jail, or a sibling who was sick and cried most of the night, or the child himself/herself being so nervous s/he was up all night throwing up!).

Let’s eliminate the kids who have test phobias and just can’t concentrate well enough to focus on the test at hand.

Let’s forget about the classroom where a member of the class had a seizure during the test and all the other kids had their concentration eliminated for a period of time.

Let’s just assume that everything was perfect and every child did his best on the test.

Some unusual factors can still influence those all important statistics for results on the test. Educators know that groups of children from year to year just don’t perform the same way. Some years a high percentage of the children seem to have come into the world with higher capacities for learning; that’s called a “good year” by those teachers.

Other years a class will have a high percentage of children who are below average achievers; many times this is because those children are chronologically younger; in other words, more kids in this group have birthdays just before the deadline to be able to enter school. That’s called a “difficult year” by the teachers who are working with shorter attention spans and an increased number of children with a less successful background.

Sometimes changes in the curriculum can strongly affect achievement levels. For instance, if the total approach to teaching math changes that year, teachers may be struggling with the new techniques of teaching these concepts and children who have been taught using a different system may be just plain confused.

Another possibility that can influence statistics is a change in the testing procedures. Moving from taking the test on paper to taking it on the computer—especially for young students who are just getting accustomed to typing—can make significant dips in statistical results.