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All In All, Kids Just Another Brick In the Data Wall 110

Posted by timothy
from the ok-the-lyrics-are-actually-on-point dept.
theodp writes "If you don't have kids of school age, you may not be aware that Data Walls — typically a low-tech "dashboard" of color-coded sticky notes on a wall bearing the names of pupils to highlight their achievement level, absences, or discipline problems — are apparently quite the rage. This is much to the chagrin of some teachers, including Peter A. Greene, who rails against the walls-of-shame in Up Against the Data Wall. Why stop there, Greene asks, tongue-in-cheek. Why not have data-driven dress codes? Data-driven recess? Pooh-poohing concerns of teachers who think Data Walls are mean but feel pressure to create them, the Supt. of Holyoke Public Schools said, "It's not a mandate whatsoever." Still, he went on to add, "I would say 99 percent of teachers see the benefit of it," which some might take as an implicit mandate. In other student privacy news, New York's Supreme Court has ruled that parental permission is not required to disclose student data to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation-funded inBloom, perhaps paving the way for the Great Data Wall of the U.S."
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All In All, Kids Just Another Brick In the Data Wall

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  • Old concept (Score:4, Informative)

    by murdocj (543661) on Saturday February 22, 2014 @04:47PM (#46312535)

    When I went to school, exam scores were literally posted on the wall. Everyone's score, there in black & white, with their name next to it. That was how you found out how you did. It wasn't considered a crime against humanity at that time.

    • Re:Old concept (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Pinky's Brain (1158667) on Saturday February 22, 2014 @05:49PM (#46312831)

      Is your perspective the one from someone who did his very best and still ended up on the bottom? Or from the perspective of a lazy bum who got good grades regardless, like most of us here?

      It might work for selective education for the higher aptitude schools, but for comprehensive schools or the lower aptitude schools it's just going to demotivate those battling genetics and losing.

      • by thegarbz (1787294)

        Is it a problem either way? Why not introduce people to what their life is likely to be. We are graded and judged with every move we make, often publicly.

        We had a similar "data wall" (who comes up with this shit) at our primary school. We then had an anonymised version in excel format sent around each class at uni which was far more useful as you can see how far you were from the mean and what percentile you were in. No I'm at work and my life ends up in graphs (currently in a reliability team so my graph

        • by murdocj (543661)

          It isn't a judgement, it's feedback on how you are doing. If you are one of those people who obsess over being 57th out of 114, well, there isn't much anyone can do for you.

      • It is most important that the wall is updated at least weekly, if not daily, otherwise, you might as well just stick with what worked best in the past, the stigma of being held back a whole year.

      • by murdocj (543661)

        it worked from my perspective of I found out my grade and my delicate psyche survived not being the highest grade in the class.

        We're not talking about HIV status, we're talking about a chem midterm. Trust me, students will survive.

      • by dryeo (100693)

        Identical twins, one born at 23:55 Dec 31st and the other born at 00:05 Jan 1st. One is officially a year older and starts school a year ahead of the other one. Do they do the same in school even though genetically identical?

        • Sorry, for most schools in the US, the cutoff date is in September or October, so your twins would still be in the same grade.

          Even taking that into account, there's no way you could conduct such an experiment and control for environmental factors across school years like that.

          • by dryeo (100693)

            Yea, my first draft mentioned adjusting the dates to where ever the cut off is (it is the new year here in BC) and it is only a mental exercise. Still obviously the older kids in a class have an advantage and I know myself as one of the youngest in my grade I was at a disadvantage, especially at any physical stuff.
            In the past kids born when food was plentiful also would have had an advantage.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      When I went to school, exam scores were literally posted on the wall.

      Same here! I was an under-achiever, and it didn't affect my self esteem in the least!

      Now if you'll excuse me, I'm late for my AA meeting.

    • by mjwalshe (1680392)
      And we got gold stars on a chart I once got two for pointing out to the maths teacher that we had already done this last year :-)
    • Humanity in the United States has become far more fragile over the last 30 years.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      When I went to school, each young female student was required to strip naked, and allow a group of eugenicists, from foundations like those that Bill Gates works tirelessly to promote, to take intimate photographs of every part of their body. (Google 'Ivy-league nude posture photo scandal' if you don't believe me). This was just how new students were processed. It wasn't considered a crime against humanity at that time.

      See how I use the same VILE PROPAGANDA methods of 'murdocj' to justify (by implication) a

    • Still done that way in Japan. Then again, maybe the country with the world's highest teen suicide rate isn't the best example.
      • by murdocj (543661)

        Because we know that the only difference between Japan and the USA is posting scores. Glad we've settled that. Amazing that my classmates aren't all dead now.

      • by tlhIngan (30335)

        Still done that way in Japan. Then again, maybe the country with the world's highest teen suicide rate isn't the best example.

        Except that it's unlikely the posting of scores is the cause. It's the Asian education system - basically you get through school, then at the end of high school, you take the Big Test(tm). This one test basically determines your future. Get a good score, you go to university and success awaits. Get a bad score, you're basically kicked to the curb, forced to spend your days as an unde

    • When the exam was handed back to us to be signed by our parents, it was given in reverse order of notation. So bad note first, good note last. This added the benefit that the shame was not permanent (having it on the wall) but at the same time made sure our parents were aware of our school progress.
    • This shouldn't be rated informative. There is a difference between posting tests scores for a single test, and having a daily reminder of absences and discipline problems. Coming in the day after a test and seeing a 60 next to your name is one thing. Then the test was removed. Contrast that with coming in every day and seeing that you have been sent to the office, and missed 4 days of school from when you got really sick, and no achievements next to your name. Every day.

      In other words, it's not the same t
    • by Reziac (43301) *

      When I was in school, it was much the same. Your test and sometimes homework scores were posted or announced for anyone to see. The result? Lots of peer pressure to do better -- if you were used to getting A's, you didn't want to be seen with a B. And guess what, peer pressure is what drives kids, more than anything else... and it mimics the judgments you'll later encounter in Real Life[TM]. -- We also had good teachers and good discipline. I don't think it's any big mystery why our school systems were near

  • Muggles. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by gjh (231652)

    WTF?

    Data wall by Dolores Umbridge.

  • Grades were private, but everyone knew who got the good grades and who got the bad grades, thus defining the middle as well.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      I agree with the author - these public displays are stupid ideas driven by mediocre minds.

      Having said that - you're exactly right. The students already know this info. It's been quite a few decades, but back when I was in school we certainly knew who the "smart" kids and the "dumb" kids were. We usually knew everyone's test scores because we kids talked about them.

      But all that that doesn't mean the teachers or parents should be buying into this concept. It's almost certainly much more humiliating for a kid

      • by pspahn (1175617)

        It's almost certainly much more humiliating for a kid with low scores to see that exposed to the adults than it is to just have your classmates know it.

        Is this the same reason they no longer show the Olympics in entirety? All those people and all that humiliation of coming in last place. Those people should truly feel shame. I'm surprised their parents were even allowed to breed.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I had my name on a literal wall of trouble-makers in elementary school. IIRC, about a dozen construction-paper pouches with citations in them. This didn't scar me or anything. It was just one facet of the insanity that came from growing up before anybody had heard of ADHD or Asperger's (I read more like an Asperger's case even though I was never diagnosed). This was back in the 70s. The wall neither hurt nor helped. Switching schools and slowly learning how to socialize via hard knocks and soft advice

  • by Gort65 (1464371) on Saturday February 22, 2014 @05:17PM (#46312689)

    "I would say 99 percent of teachers see the benefit of it,"

    Not damning the point that the Supt. of Holyoke Public Schools made or supporting it, but I tend to distrust anyone who claims that 99% of a group supports their side to bolster their argument. I know, figure of speech, but still indicative... at least 99% of the time.

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Saturday February 22, 2014 @05:52PM (#46312855) Journal
      When somebody is talking about an allegedly 'data-driven' mechanism, hearing such...quality...statistics being used in place of actual evidence is concerning.

      That's what concerns me (both about that specific quote, and about the practice generally). Anyone who thinks that students aren't acutely aware of anything useful to the noble causes of shame and bullying without adult assistance is fooling themselves. The feral little bastards certainly are. And if they aren't, they'll invent something and carry on.

      The trouble is that the current fads for 'accountability' and 'data driven' and similar buzzwords tend to be severely lacking in the sort of expertise required to actually represent an improvement. Statistics is a perfectly valid field; but without expertise and care it's just bullshit with error bars. And is anybody optimistic enough to suspect that the teachers most in need of improvement are the ones who were just waiting to set loose the power of their statistics degree, rather than doing some cargo-cult implementation of 'best practices'?

      Doing statistically driven work (especially given the bottomless supply of confounding variables in the social sciences) isn't easy, so the odds are less than inspiring when you see an educational fad that (allegedly) brings The Power Of Statistics to classrooms whose teachers are in dire need of reform. You really think that the teachers you are worried about are proficient in statistics? Or that the teachers who are proficient or better in statistics are the ones you need to worry about?
      • More over, statistics tell beatiful stories about a sample/a groupe, but nothing really about an indvidual of said group.
        Except a probability that this or that will happen, which far from a certainty (somthing that, it seems to me, most often than not is forgoten)
  • by fermion (181285) on Saturday February 22, 2014 @05:23PM (#46312707) Homepage Journal
    I recall talking about 'time outs' for young kids. Using this as a punishment, some people think, is silly, but using it as a way to manage a child can be very useful. For instance, the behavior charts that provide immediate visual feedback to younger students is well understood and can be very useful in fulfilling the need of such children for concrete and fair feedback.

    With data walls, viewable to kids, they have to understand what they mean. I can tell you even fro adults some data walls are incomprehensible. Simply posting data and using it rank students or whatever is quite meaningless. If data is going to be used to help students meet a goal, then the best way to do that is on a individual basis. Use the data to choose lesson to help the individual students improve. Part of this is the administration providing tools to direct the data toward student improvement instead of student or teacher punishment.

  • Parents data wall the teachers and staff?
  • by ahabswhale (1189519) on Saturday February 22, 2014 @05:30PM (#46312735)

    I don't see the issue here. It's not like the students don't know who the smart and dumb kids are. Also, I think this could be a benefit if every teacher did it. If you have a class where everyone's struggling, it's a clue that you might need to adjust the material or address the teacher's skills.

    • by Narcocide (102829)

      I think the ethical problem is that now Microsoft also knows, and will be selling the information to advertising partners.

    • by rsilvergun (571051) on Saturday February 22, 2014 @06:50PM (#46313125)
      there's a lot of studies that show that once people develop a negative self image that they tend to take actions that reinforce that self image, often without realizing their doing it. i.e. if a person thinks they're dumb they become unable to do anything smart. This is where the "Precious Little Snowflake" movement came from. You praise kids even if they're not doing very well because if you don't they don't just get discouraged, they quickly come to believe that success is impossible and subconsciously sabotage themselves.

      American Puritanicalism runs counter to this. The idea there is that adversity breeds character. I'm inclined to disagree with this. What I mostly see is adversity wears people down. The problem is that people who've been crushed at best fade away quietly and at worst end up in prison. Either way they're marginalized. The few that survive and prosper are much more visible. The phenomenon's called survival bias.
      • by mjr167 (2477430)

        You don't have kids, I take it. My three year old constantly tells me things like "I can't do it! I don't know how! Help me!" when I tell her to do things like put her pants on or take her shirt off. I usually just ignore her and let her struggle for a while unless I actually need her to be dressed or undressed. She has also yelled that she is stuck and needs help from the middle of the foam pit in her gymnastics class and desperately pleaded for me to jump in and get her. I also once told her if she

      • there's a lot of studies that show that once people develop a negative self image that they tend to take actions that reinforce that self image, often without realizing their doing it. i.e. if a person thinks they're dumb they become unable to do anything smart. This is where the "Precious Little Snowflake" movement came from. You praise kids even if they're not doing very well because if you don't they don't just get discouraged, they quickly come to believe that success is impossible and subconsciously sabotage themselves.

        American Puritanicalism runs counter to this. The idea there is that adversity breeds character. I'm inclined to disagree with this. What I mostly see is adversity wears people down. The problem is that people who've been crushed at best fade away quietly and at worst end up in prison. Either way they're marginalized. The few that survive and prosper are much more visible. The phenomenon's called survival bias.

        A balance between the two is needed, where you praise the child most of the time but be honest with them when they really do need to improve themselves in some way.

        Lying to them by saying that everything they do is wonderful isn't going to serve them well in the long term.

  • by camg188 (932324) on Saturday February 22, 2014 @05:36PM (#46312759)
    That album was released 35 years ago.
    Quit making me feel old.
  • After each class, the kids can put a thumbs up or thumbs down next to a teachers name for performance, comportment, engagement, and subject knowledge. Give the other students the chance to make informed decisions about whether to opt out of their class or switch schools.

    • by geoskd (321194)

      After each class, the kids can put a thumbs up or thumbs down next to a teachers name for performance, comportment, engagement, and subject knowledge. Give the other students the chance to make informed decisions about whether to opt out of their class or switch schools.

      Absolutely, becasue primary school students are always mature enough to handle that kind of thing responsibly

  • In Canada at least you can rate your teacher to see who is performing and who isn't.

    http://ca.ratemyteachers.com/ [ratemyteachers.com]

    • That sort of system isn't exactly fair to the teachers who get stuck with the bad kids who have learned that misbehavior is the only way to get attention from adults.

  • by Don Davis (3512979) on Saturday February 22, 2014 @06:01PM (#46312903)
    It is not legal to publicly display students' grades. It's part of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). A teacher could lose his license for sharing a student's grade with others. It seems that 'achievement level' should fall under that as well. This shows a poor understanding of behavior. Those students who might struggle will now be more motivated to act out or fail outright (rather than seem to struggle and fail).
  • by hiryuu (125210) on Saturday February 22, 2014 @06:03PM (#46312921)

    So, against all tradition here, I R'd the FA, and saw the photos posted. My first reaction on seeing those data wall examples was "good gawd, some moron took the overly-simplistic KPI dashboard so common in the corporate environment and decided to put it in use in early grade school." The data behind this tool may be more meaningful - which is a completely separate debate, in regards to the efficacy of standardized testing, etc. - but if the usage of this tool is shaming, then it's going to do more harm than good. Word-of-mouth comparisons of GPA and such were harsh enough in high school, but putting this right up there for a five-year-old (and all his classmates) to see is just going to make the kids on the lower rungs see it as defining and thus leading it to become self-fulfilling. Some will withdraw, others will become frustrated and lash out, and all of it will fail to be helpful.

    This is dumb.

    • by thegarbz (1787294)

      And maybe it will force the top rungs to turn competitive, because ... well that's what actually happens with the top run of students? Also the lower rungs will figure this out anyway when they get their report cards and maybe scolded by their parents. If you're on the lower rung, chances are you're already being publicly shamed as a troublemaker by the teacher (remember the dunce cap). If they fail because they are compared to other students, they have no chance anyway.

      Personally I think this is a good ide

  • by McGruber (1417641) on Saturday February 22, 2014 @06:04PM (#46312925)

    My partner is an elementary school principal. Her school has a small "data room", only accessed by teachers, in which she has posted "data walls". Her data walls are actually printouts of very large spreadsheets -- each row is a child, and the hundred of columns represent individual concepts that children have to master. For example, one column might represent "being able to add fractions", another might represent "being able to subtract fractions", another might be "being able to correctly conjugate verbs", etc.

    The really cool thing is that these spreadsheets are generated (by software) after the children take computerized tests. Instead of just giving a numeric score, the software will show exactly *which* concepts the child does and does not know.

    You would think teachers would love this technology because it would allow them to focus their instruction time on concepts their students have not mastered. Sadly, that's not the case -- instead, many long-time teachers who had always gotten "good" and "excellent" evaluations are suddenly being shown that they are not actually very good teachers. For example, the software can easily show that *none* of the students in a particular classroom have mastered a particular concept, such as adding fractions. If no student in that particular elementary classroom is able to add fractions, then it is pretty obvious that the teacher in that classroom does not know how to effectively teach adding fractions. Hearing that is pretty threatening to a teacher who has taught the same way for two or three decades.

    Anyway, I posted because what the article calls a "data wall" is not really a data wall.

    • For example, the software can easily show that *none* of the students in a particular classroom have mastered a particular concept, such as adding fractions.

      Not quite. The software can easily show that none of the students in a particular classroom passed a section of some test. But whether that test actually measures the ability to (e.g.) add fractions, is another question.

      Quantifying things is easy. You can do it with a random number generator. Quantifying things in a meaningful and useful way is hard.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        For example, the software can easily show that *none* of the students in a particular classroom have mastered a particular concept, such as adding fractions.

        Not quite. The software can easily show that none of the students in a particular classroom passed a section of some test. But whether that test actually measures the ability to (e.g.) add fractions, is another question.

        Quantifying things is easy. You can do it with a random number generator. Quantifying things in a meaningful and useful way is hard.

        To be fair, it's not *that* hard. If your test has a set of questions asking the students to add fractions and they get them all wrong that does tell you something useful. It's not perfect, but it's pretty good and quite a bit better than the alternatives:

        -Raise your hand if you know fractions. Good! 100% knowledge.
        -This psychic is here to assess your ability to add fractions.
        -You were here the day I explained adding fractions so you must know it.
        -I don't know how to be absolutely certain you know fractions

    • You would think teachers would love this technology because it would allow them to focus their instruction time on concepts their students have not mastered

      I'm pretty sure most folks who rail against this are of the very valid opinion that the books and tests themselves are not indicative of intelligence or success (other than by making it so because those who fail are made to think they're failures).

      If the test is bad, metrics pointing out how badly some classes or students do on the test are besides the point.

      The endgame is to privatize school - and push us back into the medieval times when only the rich could afford good schools (Which don't participate in

    • My partner is an elementary school principal. Her school has a small "data room", only accessed by teachers, in which she has posted "data walls". Her data walls are actually printouts of very large spreadsheets -- each row is a child, and the hundred of columns represent individual concepts that children have to master. For example, one column might represent "being able to add fractions", another might represent "being able to subtract fractions", another might be "being able to correctly conjugate verbs", etc.

      The really cool thing is that these spreadsheets are generated (by software) after the children take computerized tests. Instead of just giving a numeric score, the software will show exactly *which* concepts the child does and does not know.

      You would think teachers would love this technology because it would allow them to focus their instruction time on concepts their students have not mastered. Sadly, that's not the case -- instead, many long-time teachers who had always gotten "good" and "excellent" evaluations are suddenly being shown that they are not actually very good teachers. For example, the software can easily show that *none* of the students in a particular classroom have mastered a particular concept, such as adding fractions. If no student in that particular elementary classroom is able to add fractions, then it is pretty obvious that the teacher in that classroom does not know how to effectively teach adding fractions. Hearing that is pretty threatening to a teacher who has taught the same way for two or three decades.

      Anyway, I posted because what the article calls a "data wall" is not really a data wall.

      I think what you're describing is very valuable but I'm still not convinced it needs to be put up where the students themselves can see it.

      With the children's names removed, with visibility to the parents and school board perhaps.

  • by enderwig (261458) on Saturday February 22, 2014 @06:59PM (#46313159)
    FWIW, I am a public high school physics teacher who has taught physics to the bottom half and top half of the student population. The school I teach at is majority minority with a population that identifies as Caucasian at around 30% and African-American around 40%.

    Nearly ALL students (and teachers for that matter) would like to see how they rank against others. Nearly all students also want their exact rank to be a secret. Highest grade, lowest grade, highest average or lowest average does not matter. One of the skills I had to learn was how to DISCRETELY pull struggling students aside to give them pep talks and advice on what they could do to improve their grades.

    The struggling kids are shamed even if they publicly tell everyone they are ranked 99 out of 100. Adding another bad grade is just another poke at an open wound. ACTING stupid is okay if everyone thinks you are smarter than you look. No one wants to BE stupid. By being discrete, I've gotten quite a few that would do work for me.

    I've also had to learn when and how to give kudos to the top achievers. For honor students, its a competition. Unless you are in the top 3, there is some shame associated to being "only" 5th. Knowing someone's rank is a little bit like knowing someone's true name in fantasy universes: there is some power in that knowledge.

    Dealing with teenagers is like the super-position principle: it works until it doesn't.
  • Holyoke (Score:4, Funny)

    by sunking2 (521698) on Saturday February 22, 2014 @08:10PM (#46313435)
    The worst performing school district in the state. So it doesn't surprise me they are trying just about anything. It's also a major distribution point for most of the heroin in New England.
  • Next: kids intentionally underperforming so as not to be listed as one of the high achievers on the data wall.
  • InBloom (Score:5, Funny)

    by Jason Levine (196982) on Saturday February 22, 2014 @08:54PM (#46313609)

    My wife and I have been fighting against InBloom in NY for quite awhile. They're planning on taking our kids' data (like grades, medical information, IEP status, etc) and upload it to an Amazon Cloud Server.

    My three problems are:

    1) It's not opt-in or even opt-out. We can outright state that we don't want our kids' data uploaded and they can just ignore us and upload it anyway.

    2) Cloud server security isn't absolute. How long until it is hacked?

    3) InBloom is reserving the right to sell the data to third parties who might be interested in it.

    InBloom is a horrible idea. The only reason it is moving forward is that the New York state Department of Education has bought into the Gates Foundation's lobbying efforts.

  • I would like to take the opportunity to point out that the article is dead wrong on one specific point. In New York, the highest court is the Court of Appeals, not the Supreme Court proof [nycourts.gov].
  • 1) Based on teachers I know and have discussed this with (yes, yes, not a valid sample, blah blah blah...) I can't imagine that the 99% stat quoted is anywhere near accurate. Many teachers have problems with posting student data, especially in elementary school where I teach.

    2) I can't think of one instance during my career where comparing "achievement levels" or anything like them have motivated the lower performing kids, the ones that the NCLP, RTTT, and other government programs say we are supposed to b

  • http://www.alfiekohn.org/teach... [alfiekohn.org]
    http://www.alfiekohn.org/books... [alfiekohn.org]
    http://www.johntaylorgatto.com... [johntaylorgatto.com]
    http://www.the-open-boat.com/G... [the-open-boat.com]
    http://www.newciv.org/whole/sc... [newciv.org]
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T... [wikipedia.org]

    So much of the discussion of schooling misses the deeper point about the horrible legacy of "Prussian Schooling" and the enormous cost of it in diminished psyches. More humane lternatives are possible.

    From the first link above:
    -------
    "From Degrading to De-Grading"
    "You can tell a lot about a teacher's values and p

    • by Azghoul (25786)

      I wish I could reply to this a hundred times and give it a hundred points of karma.
      I also wish I knew all this back in the 80's, plus the ability to and personality to stand up and do something about it.....

      • Thanks. :-) Wish all this stuff did not have to be said though... Yes, I too wish I had known it all sooner.

Programmers do it bit by bit.

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