Does Focus on A Singular Metric Drive Bad Behavior?
It is commonly known that performance needs to be measured to understand how well we are doing. We all start off defining the metrics we will use to measure improvement with the best of intentions. However, if we are not taking a total systems thinking approach to defining these metrics, we run the risk of creating a metric that unintentionally drives bad behavior.
For example, until 2014, California schools were rated using a single score, the Academic Performance Index (API), based exclusively on test scores. In its place, the California School Dashboard, a website with multicolor displays rating schools and districts provides multiple indicators measuring academic achievement, school climate, student engagement and other priorities specified in the Local Control Funding Formula. These indicators are designed to provide information related to the eight priorities that school districts must address in their Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP). The State Board of Education said the website is intended to provide data for school improvement as well as information for parents and the public.
One of the metrics chosen for the dashboard is school and district suspension rate. Schools are rated higher for a reduced suspension rate. The intent of this metric is to reduce the economic impact of school suspensions and urge districts to invest in training school staff in disciplinary alternatives. In response, California schools have reduced their suspension rates by 40%. Huge success, right?
Unfortunately, this single metric has created a situation where consequences for disruptive students have been effectively eliminated and teachers are basically told to deal with it. Many teachers have cited a lack of support from administration in dealing with this new paradigm. Frankly, you would be hard pressed to find any hard documentation on the assumed training that teachers are supposed to be receiving.
Teaching is already a stressful and underpaid job. Is it reasonable to add the burden of “parenting” each problem student to a teacher’s ever-expanding list of requirements? If we expect teachers to now parent our children then shouldn’t we be paying them more? A lot more?