Renewing America's Progress: A Positive Solution to School Reform

By Fredric H. Genck | Go to book overview

18
Other Indicators: Hazards, Cautions, and Pitfalls

In spite of the emphasis I have placed on measuring results, I want to make it perfectly clear in this chapter that there are serious reservations about measurement in education -- hazards, cautions, and pitfalls. Ultimately, judgment is required to evaluate the performance of any organization. You cannot reduce such important things to a number. Schools, perhaps most of all, because they deal with such a delicate and important commodity, our children, cannot be measured quantitatively alone, by any indicator or even several indicators.

Be sure to build in plenty of opportunity for judgment on the part of the public, school board, administrators, teachers, and other staff members, as well as students. Let them consider what are the purposes and what are the results in the broadest possible way. The most important and highest level of learning is undoubtedly thinking, writing, analyzing, and other such activities that have no real measure. Poetry and philosophy cannot be quantified. The Socratic dialogue promoted for so many decades by Mortimer Adler is a good example of something not measurable but vitally important. It should be made available to every student at the earliest possible age.

The things that can be measured in school tend to be basics -- reading and math, for example; once you measure them, you can move on to other things that are not as measurable. Achievement in all areas may depend more on motivation than on teaching of specific content. The ability of a teacher to motivate a student is mysterious, and often unfathomable, yet it is the real key to all learning and progress.

Classrooms, departments, and schools must be comprehended in total, delving into the sociology of the organization to find what makes

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