The Numbers Speak #sol19
June 18, 2019
Today is the first actual day of my summer leave. Friday was the last day of school and yesterday there was a wrap up meeting for our district literacy leadership. I was planning on going to school today to finish up writing my year end report, but the silence of home opposed to the silence of school called to me. I’m in the half-life right now. I can still feel the echoes of the school year, missed opportunities, almost-made-its, minor successes. The horizon of next year looms with expectation and hope. Here I stand (well, sit) in between, using the numbers of this last year to inform what I hope for the next.
As usual, the numbers frustrate me. They can be so one dimensional. I complete the form that someone designed to compile the teacher-driven spreadsheets, but does it give a picture of what this last year was. I can compile statistics of how many total readers in first grade hit the Fountas and Pinnell benchmark and above, but because of how we collect data currently, I can’t say how many grew like weeds through those levels. I can’t say how many were so close and in a different book on a different day, they could read that level book with confidence. I can’t say how they feel about themselves as readers or how they feel about what they learned this year.
Don’t misunderstand. I adore data. Data is on the top of my hit parade. When I think about how I inform my practice, how I coach others to inform their, data is always the place I start. It just might not be just this data. I might not overemphasize this one very amazing assessment over all the data I might be able to see. I might want to know more about this data, how many students could summarize the text with ease, how many understood the character motivation and could empathize by imagining themselves in those situations, how many understood the role of the minor characters, how many saw the craft moves the authors was making. I don’t know. That data is not reported in my reporting form. Don’t panic! It was passed on to the next teacher. I hope she savors that knowledge and searches for signs of emerging skills. I’m confident about this. But today’s report won’t tell the administration any of that information.
Poor writing. So often the second thought in our literacy examination. So difficult to collect data on. How to turn those amazing ideas generated into numbers. Perhaps so much is lost when we do. Peering into shared writing that I have squirreled away in my unit books, I find treasure. Treasure developed over time, time conferring, time watching, time waiting. For this year, I’ll have to let the collaborative time we spent talking over student work suffice.
The talk… How to quantify those moments where ideas were shared, breakthroughs were found, struggle was revealed? I can calculate how many times I worked with individual students, how many early morning discussions pouring over student work, teacher plans, and coffee. Would those calculations show the synergy of that work? How those ripples changed work, changed hearts, changed practice?
One year, I made an infographic to show my year of coaching. It was my favorite way I have ever reported that work. It felt like a living and breathing thing, a thing that doesn’t end after 180 days. This calculation about this year, maybe I should think of it more as a preset for the next. Making a plan, while I examine the numbers, of what could happen next.