Dear Teachers: Feed the Data Monster. Rigorously and with Grit.

Dear teachers,

Now that the 2014-2015 school year is well underway, I’m writing to you with a friendly reminder of what everyone already knows: you suck.

And because you suck, your students suck, too. (Yes, even the ones whose white suburban moms thought they were brilliant.)

But don’t worry, because the federal and state Departments of Education have the answer: DATA. We should all be obsessed with data, they say; we should be collecting it, tracking it, analyzing it–and even sharing it.

So guess what, sucky teachers: if Those Who Know Best want data, then let them have data!

Here are some ideas. Get your spreadsheets ready!

  1. Track the number of hours you’re required to spend prepping for standardized tests that you know do not measure your students’ abilities or your worth as a teacher.
  2. Track the number of materials you’re required to use (textbooks, workbooks, pre-loaded software, online programs, etc.) that come directly from test-prep corporations.
  3. Track the amount of instructional time you and your students will lose because of standardized testing.
  4. Track the number of programs your district has been forced to cut in order to make room for test prep.
  5. Track the number of personnel your district has been forced to cut in order to free up funds for CCSS/PARCC implementation.
  6. Track the number of kids who cry, become frustrated, express a dislike for school, or get physically sick because of the focus on standardized testing that you know is bad for kids.
  7. Track the number of things you’d like to do–or used to do–in your classroom that you can’t do now because of standardized testing or other education “reforms.”
  8. Track the amount of money your district has spent fulfilling the requirements of unfunded mandates sent down from the state and feds.
  9. Track the number of professional development hours you receive that come directly from things that don’t improve your instruction (i.e. SGO training, PARCC training, etc.)–and then track the number of meaningful professional development hours you’ve missed out on (i.e. content-specific workshops, child development training, etc.) because of your previous list.
  10. Track your students’ attendance patterns (no names, of course!)–especially since attendance isn’t considered in SGP calculations.
  11. Track issues that affect your students outside of school and have a direct impact on their ability to learn.
  12. Track and describe the ways in which your district is in violation of special education laws and regulations.
  13. Track all of the things you’re forced to do that go against your best judgment and what you know to be appropriate for children.
  14. Track the number of hours you’ve spent learning about SGOs; writing SGOs; revising SGOs; submitting SGOs; fulfilling SGOs; keeping records on SGOs; meeting with administrators about SGOs; being confused by all the conflicting information about SGOs; and thinking about all the ways in which the SGO process is flawed, not grounded in research, and generally useless to both teachers and students.
  15. Track the number of hours you spend inputting your lesson plans into an online template in order to conform to a prescribed format. Be sure to include the number of hours you spend revisiting, revising, and resubmitting lesson plans.
  16. Track all the things you’re forced to do that do not improve your instruction–and do not improve student learning.
  17. Track the number of things you’re forced to do that undermine your judgment, expertise, and professionalism.
  18. Track rigor!
  19. Track grit!
  20. Track the number of hours you spend doing schoolwork outside of your contractual day.
  21. Track the amount of money you’ve spent on things for your students and your classroom.
  22. Track the amount of money you contribute to your pension and health benefits (you mean teachers don’t get these things for free?!); be sure to make note that increasing pension and benefit contributions have caused your paycheck to go down steadily over the past few years. (If you’re in New Jersey, you can also track the amount of money Chris Christie hasn’t contributed to your pensions, and instead has shipped to high-risk hedge funds that directly benefit his friends–although David Sirota is doing a phenomenal job of this already.)
  23. Finally, to REALLY get on everyone’s nerves, track the positive things your students say to you or about you. (Warning, though: data monsters HATE this because such things are obviously subjective, immeasurable, and meaningless.)

Track anything else you feel is relevant. And once you’ve compiled all your data, share it with everyone.

Show it to your colleagues, your administrators, your neighbors, your students’ parents, your legislators, and anyone else who cares.

Post it online.

Make a book out of it.

Tell everyone that the USDOE was your inspiration–and then write a letter to Arne Duncan thanking him for pointing out that you suck and suggesting that data collection is the best way for you to fix yourself. (Also, tell him I said hi–and remind him that I’m still waiting for him to take the standardized tests he’s forcing our kids to take and publish his scores. He’s ignored me for over a year.)

I know you’re all busy enough already, but you should always make time for data.




Cookie Monster



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17 responses to “Dear Teachers: Feed the Data Monster. Rigorously and with Grit.

  1. Petra Farmer

    And…track the number of your colleagues who retire because they just can’t teach like this anymore (I am one of them after 26 years as a science teacher).

  2. Data Driven

    So true!

  3. As a parent/grandparent/great-grandparent and someone who has worked with children in afterschool programs, Scouting, and other groups, I am livid about what the changes in testing are doing to our children. I see kids labeling themselves as “failures” before they’ve even had an opportunity to experience success. Your post is an encompassing summary of the problems I see. It’s all about cash and power, but not for those who do the teaching, or for the benefit of students.

  4. JT

    I just wish the general public knew how much all this was costing them-while the testing companies get richer. The biggest scam I’ve seen in my 31 years of teaching!! Thanks for a great article!

  5. Pingback: Dear Teachers: Feed the Data Monster. Rigorously and with Grit. | Mindful Musings at Midlife

  6. Susan Jolley

    How about tracking the hours you have to spend learning the Danielson Framework, filling out the Danielson rubrics, watching Danielson videos, rating the Danielson actors/teachers, rating yourself, submitting the forms, etc., etc., etc., only to learn nothing new about teaching or your own effectiveness.

  7. DO

    Oh, and throw in there tracking the hours spent on the Kim Marshall evaluation system. A gem it is….60 point rubric, uses the word, “inculcate” twice. Let’s not forget having to self-evaluate ourselves in September, then all of the hours spent collecting data to support your self-evaluation at your May meeting. Don’t overlook the hours you’ve spent worrying about when the next unannounced 10-minute observation is about to happen, nor the hours mulling over how you were SUPPOSED to be observed 10 times in the year, 10 minutes each time, but a magic wand was somehow waved and you were only observed four times for a total of 60 minutes, which is absolutely contrary to what the pompous Mr. Marshall deemed was a strength of his 10/10 evaluation system. It is all a joke, but no one is laughing.

  8. kathleen sharkey

    I cannot take any credit for your passion, your intelligence or your razor sharp insights into this terrible problem that you so eruditely explain, but Hey, I’m human. So let me just say, ‘hey, that’s my former student! She rocks!’ Wonderful article. Thanks, Ani.

  9. Carla

    And track how much time guidance counselors spend on testing and testing-related activities when they could be spending time with students who are srtuggling.

  10. Rosemary

    We are “artists” being asked to produce a masterpiece with a paint by number kit.

  11. Pingback: What I’m Reading: My favorite blog post of the moment with more than a little bit of snark. (H/T Ani McHugh – @teacherbiz31) – Learning is Change

  12. Pingback: What I'm Reading: My favorite blog post of the moment with more than a little bit of snark. (H/T Ani McHugh – @teacherbiz31) – Learning is Change

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