Editor’s Note: The following letter to the editor was read during public comment at the Framingham School Committee meeting on Wednesday night and then submitted to SOURCE media on Thursday for publication.
FRAMINGHAM – My name is Dr. Annie Fox. As a professor of quantitative methods and a Framingham parent, I’d like to share my expertise with you tonight.
An entirely data-driven educational philosophy strips teachers and students of their humanity. They become data points, with an underlying assumption that teachers can’t be trusted. Instead of trusting the experts in the classroom–the teachers who are the source of real expertise and feedback around curriculum and pedagogy–FPS leadership prefers to “trust the data.”
The lesson plan mandate is one consequence of this data-driven philosophy. It encourages (if not explicitly requires) teachers to do the same thing on the same day—why? DATA. But this entirely misses the point. The lesson plan mandate does not improve or address quality of instruction. In fact, ironically enough, FPS leadership has not cited any DATA or evidence of its own about the effectiveness of this practice. The evidence we do have, though, is abundantly clear in the comments of teachers who have repeatedly and consistently stated that this mandate negatively affects the quality of their instruction.
The increased burden on teachers began in earnest last year, and I want to provide an example of its negative impact on our kids. We originally chose King Elementary School because it was heralded as a STEAM school that promoted and encouraged project based learning. PBL is an evidence-based practice that has been shown to improve student learning. There is educational research DATA to support this.
But beginning last year, the mandated scope-and-sequence of the district-wide curriculum pushed out this innovation. The King teachers’ creativity and professionalism were disregarded in favor of a top- down, cookie-cutter curriculum. I ask you to think about the failure of imagination this leadership decision represents—Instead of scaling up an evidence based practice to the district, FPS leadership chose to abandon it. Why? It didn’t fit their myopic, data-driven philosophy.
My children’s last year at King was qualitatively different from previous years. We realized that the reasons we were excited to send our kids there—teacher autonomy, project based learning, innovative teaching—no longer existed. We made the difficult decision to transfer our children out of FPS and send them to school in the district where their father teaches.
It wasn’t fully clear just how fortunate we were to have this option until they started at their new school. They’re excited about school again.
Instead of 45 minutes of iReady drill-and-kill, my third grader is now learning the viola at school while my second-grader helps tend the school garden. They enjoy two fifteen-minute recesses. Teacher collaboration is evident.
On the other hand, the most evident teacher trait in Framingham right now is burnout. I would encourage FPL leadership to look into the data on that.
Equity of experience across the district could be implemented in a thousand ways, but instead of inviting teachers to the table at the outset, Framingham Public Schools chose a top-down approach that leaves our teachers–our most valuable source of meaningful data!–with feelings of mistrust, disrespect, and exhaustion. Even with a YouTube video, this is not effective leadership.
The phrase “Data-Driven” is a buzzword. It is not in and of itself a meaningful or coherent educational philosophy. Data is a tool that should inform policy, not dictate it.
So here’s my advice as a data scientist: put aside the i-Ready minutes, the lock-step curriculum, the lesson-plan oversight. Listen to your teachers. They have the data you need.