Reducing Kids to Numbers: How Schools Forget About the Humanity of Students

pablo-19In the past weeks, I have walked into school each day with a heavy heart.  The feeling is a mix between anger and tears.  My anger comes from the passion that I have for doing what I know is best for students and feeling the system move in a direction that takes that ability away from me and my colleagues.  My anger is focused and welling up from my strong belief in doing what is best for the students I serve.  The anger is directed towards the system itself and its ability to cannibalize change that had begun to blossom in service of the students it’s supposed to serve.   

The feeling of tears is sprung from the stupidity of test focused education that is placed on teachers across the nation.  My tears are for the students who walk into class each day and have their love of learning exhausted from their bodies and souls through the use of standards that tell students what to know, but never allow them to ask a simple question: “Why should I know this?”  

Decision-makers across the country create policies without ever once considering the humanity of the students that they impact.  To them, all they are is numbers on a paper.  One thing is for certain: students are more than numbers.  They are dynamic and individually brilliant human beings.  I have watched as my school has slipped further and further into a strictly data driven methodology of tracking student achievement to ultimately improve test scores.  In no way am I suggesting that we should not collect and analyze data, but there exists a bridge too far.  

pablo-20When we begin to reduce students to numbers on a spreadsheet, then we slowly start to lose sight of the humanity that resides within each of the young people we serve.  We begin to see students as robots to be programmed to do the mundane task of bubbling in answers on a test.  Even the most student centered teacher is at risk of losing sight of the important things— the basic needs of the child.  Day by day, they will become more focused on driving content into the mind without ever realizing that the first step on the path to success is in the heart of the child.  What those numbers will never tell you is the creative brilliance that a child holds or how beautiful their heart or how motivated they are to learn.  They will never tell you whether that student is having trouble at home or being bullied at school.  All they might tell you is whether that child was able to bubble the right answer.    

I have said it more than once: I will not cave.  We cannot cave at the whims of the test to allow ourselves to do the things that we know to be inherently bad for the students we serve. So as my tears dry and my anger settles, I will move forward and resolve to do what I know to be best for students.  

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