In Education, Are We Measuring the Wrong Thing?

Is there too much emphasis on metrics?

The country’s approach to education is once again under scrutiny, thanks in large part to two recent Gallup polls; one aimed at analyzing political perspective, and another analyzing the effect of education on our youth.

In the first poll, “U.S. Education Ratings Show Record Political Polarization” (Aug 17, 2016), Gallup found satisfaction with public education (K-12) was based on political perspective.  Whereas Democrats were generally satisfied (53%), Republicans were not, dropping to a low of 32%.  The contrast between the two is sharp but hard to explain.

Some believe the reason is the general Republican refutation of Common Core, a national program to establish standards to evaluate student performance.  New techniques for teaching math, science, and history are not being warmly received by the GOP who would rather see local School Boards have more control over curriculum and standards.

The other poll, “Bringing Education Back to Its Roots” (Aug 17, 2016) questions how we evaluate student performance, that we are becoming too obsessed with numbers, and not with the student’s ability to think and be creative.

The poll claims we know how to stuff facts, figures and content into the student, but not how to pull it back out in order to solve problems.  To illustrate, they discuss the use of common quizzes and tests as used in the classroom, the push to satisfy state testing requirements, as well as the other formal tests used for college application, e.g., PSAT, ACT, SAT, etc.  Such tests denote the student’s ability to memorize, but not how to apply it in real life situations.

In an accompanying video, Brandon Busteed, Executive Director of Education and Workforce Development at Gallup, questioned the excessive use of metrics in his keynote address at the Education Commission of the States’ 2016 National Forum on Education Policy, last June.  He claimed our obsession on metrics only addresses one part of education, namely input, but we should also be concerned with output, for that is what we are called on to use in business.  Frankly, I couldn’t agree more.

We should be less consumed with our obsession on testing, and more concerned with its application in life.

Keep the Faith!