Wednesday, January 25, 2012


Who knew date night's movie Moneyball would actually spark a conversation about education reform and the OEIB?NCLB waiver? How is this possible you might ask? Well, when the couple are both teachers, it explains a lot.

As the doors of our car closed shut last night on the way home from our movie, my husband said, "I was just reflecting about that movie..."

"Yes?" I replied.

"Well, it reminds me of teaching and how education reformers and those relying on data to game the system of education are really playing their own version of Moneyball."

"I KNOW! I was thinking the exact same thing." I replied.

He said, "If they think baseball is hard to pin down to computerized stats and evaluation, try teaching. There are so many variables in teaching: kids not doing homework due to a crazy home life, lack of drive, or interest; kids feeling over tested, narrowed curriculum, kids worrying about their next meal, kids dealing with being homeless, kids who are at a 10 year deficit in reading skills because no one really read to them when they were young, large classes, loss of programs that students value, lack of sleep, lack of support at home, peer pressure, busy families trying to work several jobs to survive, and other problems associated to poverty. How can we really pin down numbers and data to determine and predict success?"

However, when you look at the OEIB and the NCLB waiver plan, it is increasingly about implementing and collecting data ad nauseum thinking that the more data you try to get your head around the more likely that we can determine the magic answer in getting our kids to succeed.

But teaching, successful teaching, doesn't operate in those parameters. Teaching is more like the baseball scouts who use their intuition, experience and knowledge of the game and players to create a successful team.

That is what is missing in the education reform version of Moneyball: the voices of the experts who know and understand the game of teaching.

Until the voices of those who are in the trenches: parents, teachers, and students are heard and valued, Oregon's education system will continue to rack up more losses than wins in the game of Moneyball.

"Education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire." --William Butler Yeats


  1. I just saw this also, I thought about writing a post about it myself. But One major flaw of the data hounds in Education reform is the misunderstood what Moneyball was all about.

    The data was not used to pit students against students, nor were one players stats create a good coach or a good team. It was the product of the whole team that made a successful team, each person strengths helping to lessen the impact of others weakness.

    Someone tonight said, we need to worry about "each" student instead of "all" students. That is important. If we look at each student much like the characters in the movie, we will find talents, and strengths...they will have weaknesses too, but it is their strengths that were the most important. To me this is were education should be headed.

    Not that we shouldn't hope that students have a well round education.We should used their strengths as a way to lessen the power or impact of their weaknesses.

    For example, If I am really good at math, have a passion for it, and want to do something with math when I grow up... but am a poor reader. What good is it to just make me take reading tests over and over again. What good is it for me to spend day after day doing reading lessons. What if instead, I am asked to do math and when I am doing math I get additional help to understand the language of math, how to communicate my understanding of it. Maybe I am used as a tutor for other who are not good at math (Pitch hitter)... etc etc...

    Know what this sounds like to me, it sounds like the real world, it sounds like the work place, it sounds like human truth. No one is good at everything, why would you want to be, you wouldn't need anyone else.

    We should offer children a learning environment where they have the chance to be the best person they are...not what we say they should be, not some compact or achievement goal driven by god knows what.

    I know that given the chance a majority of teachers could help student leads happy, and successful lives. I don't think that has anything to do with test scores, curriculum packages, or education reforms.

    I think we need to remember that children and adults just want to be given support, trust, care and guidance in finding what they are good at and how they can turn their passion in to a happy life.

    It is not about using data to make better students, it is about using data or relationships or learning to help students use what they are good at to be happy, to participate in the world a meaningful way and be able to provide for themselves and their families.

    or am I wrong? Do we need to have a conversation about the purpose of education is as a society?

    I am up for it, I just not sure I am up for anymore take of achievement or outcomes or graduation rates or kindergarten readiness (this one gets me).....

    David Loitz

  2. Can we stop using the phrase in the trenches? Do we really want schools to be thought of as war zones... that is part of the problem. What does that make students? Where does learning come into it.


  3. Our legislators should give the Oregon Education Investment Board and Governor a homework assignment. It should be to examine how education systems like Finland, Singapore, Denmark and Ontario, Canada became top performers. According to Michael Fullan, an internationally respected researcher on education change,,the high performers made heavy investments in capacity building of school staff. They rejected the idea of using test-driven accountability... They provided strong support for teachers working together. They rejected test-merit pay and test-driven teacher evaluation. They don’t see technology as a way to reduce the number of teachers, and instead figure out how to best use technology as a good teachers tool. They avoided fragmented single solutions, like “achievement compacts.” They have comprehensive plans that actually support learning improvement across the entire system.

    C’mon Board, do your homework before inventing “silver bullet” solutions like meaningless unfunded achievement compact mandates! Every one of your recommendationns so far violates what will really work to improve learning and reduce the drop out rates. Just "looking busy" with stuff like meaningless achievement compacts is a dodge of your real responsibility. Figure out how to overcome a decade of diabling disinvestement in public education, Board!

    Tom Olson
    SOS member

  4. As an educator, I think we need to honor students' strengths, but also provide opportunities to branch out and to challenge themselves. This is why a well-rounded education is vital in education. If students stick to their strengths, they will get too comfortable and not take risks in their education. In being exposed to a well-rounded curriculum, they will most likely discover other things they are good at or interested in. Also, as in Moneyball, teaching students to collaborate and work with others is an important skill as well.

  5. I need to do a post that discusses that very subject Tom. Thanks for bringing it up!

  6. With regards to "in the trenches," I understand how that can come across. At times it does feel like a war zone when so much is at stake. I would love to hear suggestions for other ways to express this same idea.