We are living in an era of increasing measurement in education. Most educators can appreciate the need to collect accurate data in relation to student learning and to communicate that information with care and sensitivity to both students and parents. Most educators can also appreciate the need for schools and school systems to make decisions that are data informed, especially if that data is rich and varied and multiple voices are heard in interpreting it. In the conversations I have with colleagues, what educators struggle with the most with regard to educational measurement is that the data rarely captures the “more” of education. By the “more” I mean what we do besides socialization and certification of achievement. You see teachers rarely go into education because of their dedication to these two purposes. They most often become teachers because they understand that education is about learning AND identity or ontology – that education spaces are places of engagement, spaces where we as teachers help children develop images and understandings of the world and themselves, spaces where children and adults learn together how to interact with the world and others in life-giving ways, spaces where persons are called into being. Teachers are almost unanimous in their belief that the “more” cannot be measured in quantifiable numbers very easily, and equally convinced that the “more” should not be measured – because then it would cease to be the more! Wonder would end, mystery would die.
This summer our family spent a few weeks at our lake house. It is not very often that we get more than one week of time there, and three weeks was a definite luxury. Our house is oriented towards the lake and the view is beautiful. It changes as water views do, but it is also very consistent. As we were driving home one evening after dinner, the moon was shining brilliantly and I turned to my husband and told him that I really missed the moon when we were at the lake. He looked at me like I was a little crazy (which isn’t unusual) and was surprised to discover that because of the orientation of our house and the way the moon rises and falls, we never get to see it. I “proved” this to him when we got home. It is fun to sometimes be right.
I keep thinking about this experience in relationship to education and measurement. Our assessment tools may keep us looking at the same view in the same way. We might be tricked into thinking that this is all there is to see. We might be forgetting about the moon. We might start to forget the “more”. And this would be a great loss.