Education Needs a Bill James


Upcoming Important Dates

Wednesday, April 1 – Early Release Day, Students dismissed at 11:10 am
Tuesday, April 7 – Sebago Team’s Ancient World Museum, 6:00 pm GMS 6th Grade Wing
Tuesday, April 7 – All Gorham Band Concert, GHS Auditorium 6:30 pm
Wednesday, April 8 – School Committee Meeting, Municipal Center 7:00 pm
Friday, April 10 – GMS Dance sponsored by the 6th Grade, 6:00 – 8:00 pm
Tuesday, April 14 – All Gorham Chorus nigh GHS Auditorium 6:30 pm

Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics

There are several quotes from the inimitable Mark Twain that are my favorites, but this one is my most used and Mark Twainmy most favorite. (I won’t mention the quote about School Committees!!)

We live our life surrounded by these numbers, or data, as it is so often referred to these days in education. Dropout rates, Literacy rates, numeracy rates and graduation rates are just a few that we try to examine in making a determination about how successful American Public Schools are doing.

PISA logoLet’s not forget about the numbers we use when we compare our students to the students of the rest of the World, the all important PISA Assessment, or the Programme of International Student Assessment conducted by the Organization of Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD). The PISA assessment is the one done every two years and compares 15 year-olds in the United States to the 15 year-olds from around the globe. It is also the assessment that has almost every policy maker shouting from the tree tops that our schools are not doing their job!

In the coming weeks, our students at GMS will be taking the first administration of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) Computer Adapted Test (CAT) and Performance Task (PT). This assessment is PARCClogodesigned to measure how well our students are “achieving proficiency” towards the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) that were created at the direction of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). In Maine, we call this assessment the Maine Educational Assessment (MEA).

Now, this assessment, the MEA, is supposed to provide schools, districts and the state with an abundance of evidence that will indicate whether, or not, the schools, the teachers and the students are making Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). The assessment is broken down by sub groups, (e.g. Students Identified with Disabilities, Socio Economic Standing (SES), English Language Learners (ELL), Cultural background, Title 1 and a panoply of other categories). However, each of these sub groups are measured in the exact same manner, do the students meet proficiency on the assessment, period.

MLBlogoWhat if measured baseball in the manner? Think about it, all managers and coaches are rated on the ability of their hitters to hit the baseball, and their fielders ability to catch and throw the ball, ands, that’s it. How about if the only teams that make the playoffs are the teams that have the highest batting average. Ok, I know that it could be said that would seem as it should (consider the 1927 Yankees “Murderer’s Row”) or the teams who hit the most home runs. But, we know that is not always the case, some teams win with defense, others with pitching. Yet, for some inexplicable reason, we are going to measure the success of school districts, schools, principals and teachers on the one single statistic, the results of a test given to students.

What education needs is someone like Bill James. Who is Bill James, you ask? He is the man responsible for a 200x200xJames-Bill-square.jpg.pagespeed.ic.tkF52VCBl3whole new series of statistics that are being used in the baseball world. These statistics are used  by baseball management teams when they are negotiating new contracts for professional baseball players. These statistics are the numbers used to determine the value of an individual player, in the parlance of education, these numbers are summative assessments, just like the SBAC or PARCC!

As I said above, there have been some truly great players. Ted Williams was a great player, perhaps the greatest hitter of all time in the opinion of a few folks, and in the “numbers” he produced during his stellar career. Ted is the last major-league ball player to hit above a .400 average for a whole season, hitting .406 in 1941. Since then, some players have come close to hitting .400, but none have been able to sustain that level of proficiency for a full season since. Ted was also the American League MVP twice during his career, six-time American League batting champ, hit more than 500 home runs and won exactly no championships as a member of the Boston Red Sox.

OK, so I understand that baseball is a team sport. I know that it takes everyone doing their job to the fullest to win championships, or be a successful team. I also know that there are lots of reasons why teams win, and Bill James has been able to accurately quantify, using actual results, why these teams have been successful. He has broken down performance into very small bits that can be used to determine the value of baseball players.

How do we compare what we do in a classroom and how students learn with what goes on on a baseball field? I am sure there is a way to do it, it’s just that there isn’t the profit motive to get anyone interested. There is a motive (profit or some other) to rank school using the raw data from the results of tests that may, or may not measure what is being taught. One, need only look at the profit and loss statement of Pearson or any other testing conglomerate.

So, Bill James, if you’re unlucky enough to have stumbled across this missive, and cray enough to have plodded through this tome, the world of education needs your expertise. We need someone to make sense of the results of these new PARCC and SBAC Assessments and give a true picture of how are kids are doing!

Final Day for Ordering Yearbooks

Please remember that April 20th is the final day for ordering GMS Yearbooks. If you would like to purchase a yearbook, there are two ways to do it. You can stop by the GMS Main Office and pick up an order form, enclose a check in the appropriate amount and leave it with our secretaries, or you can go to the Lifetouch Website at use the GMS ID Code of 3788215.

We will only order as many yearbooks as students purchase, so if you don’t get your order in by April 20th, you will be “out of luck”!




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