data talk with bert and ernie

Bert: Now that each student has taken the reading test on the computer, we have a great deal of data that the program has generated for us to better understand what each child knows and is able to do. First of all we can list them in rank order and form small groups – or even ability leveled classrooms – based on their performance.

Ernie: But isn’t that score composed of many different skills? Is each child with low scores deficient in the same areas?

Bert: Good point, Ernie! If we look further into the data generated by the program we can see that all the skills needed at the level of each child’s reading are listed – and areas of need will be marked so teachers know what to work on with the child. So you can zero in on areas of weakness.

Ernie: I am not sure that a student’s answers on that one test show that he or she is weak in that area all the time. And will working on that one skill really make them a better reader? I think of reading as more integrated skills instead of isolated ones.

Bert: But Ernie, you must start somewhere, and this data gives you that starting point, don’t you see?

Ernie: Sometimes a child is a slow reader, weak in fluency. But the students are reading silently on their own on this test…

Bert: Another great comment! The data shows oral reading fluency, too! Yes, it is an estimate, but proven to be accurate over a wide range of students.

Ernie: How does this test relate to the state testing we will have students complete in the spring of the year?

Bert: Yet another thoughtful question! The program has compiled these graphs to show where each child will perform on state testing. Predicted scores based on their performance on this test.

Ernie: But this is only one test, on one day, given on a computer.

Bert: What better way to measure reading accurately?

Ernie: Well I like to listen to my students read, and then discuss the selection with each child, having them retell the important parts and pushing them to think more deeply and infer what the author was really trying to say.

Bert: And then that would be your opinion of the child’s ability, not an objective measure of their ability.

Ernie: Maybe – but it helps me know each of them as a reader, and as a person. And building that relationship is key to my teaching and their learning.

Bert: But Ernie, how can you possibly NOT see what I am trying to show you? That the impartial data from this test, based on the performance of thousands of students nationwide, is more valuable than your spending time with each child in your class.

Ernie: Well, when you put it that way, no. I just can’t see it at all.


seeing differently

It was a shock.

A boy we had known, once a friend of our daughter, grown to be thirty now.  Broken and drawn in, wheelchair bound, head bowed, covered in a blanket. The victim – the cause – of a fiery midnight accident two years ago.  Hit by a fuel truck that then exploded.

He lay between life and death for so long. Unrecognizable, even to his parents at first, comatose for so long, lingering.  And yet, beneath, inside, making progress, coming back, inch by tiny inch.

So all things considered, this view of him now was a miracle.

And when his dad gently grasped his son’s head between his hands, and faced him toward the camera, then I saw the boy I once knew. Yes, he was still there. There was a spark – the light of life – in his eyes, and even a smile on his face.

Life. A precious, holy thing. And through it all, life remained.

I thanked God for this gift, which I could now see for its true worth and beauty.

And I thought of another friend whose gift was taken away, whose son didn’t live, a recent, painful loss. What she would give to see that spark still alive in her own son’s eyes, even wrapped in a broken body.

I am looking at things differently now.

changing seasons

Every day there are subtle hints at the coming of Fall. Seed pods sit on the ends of stalks in the lilies where flowers once bloomed. Hackberry trees are losing their leaves in shades of yellow or mottled brown. The breeze skitters them across the road from time to time. At the cabin by the lake the acorns are beginning to drop from the giant oak trees there. I saw a V-formation of geese the other day, although their pace was leisurely and they seem to be practicing for the long haul to come. Our morning walks are darker and the shadows are longer in the evenings. The seasons are definitely starting to change.

There is a change of seasons inside our home as well. Last May our youngest child graduated from college. He moved back home with us and was – thankfully, blessedly – fortunate to find an engineering job in his major field. When Labor Day weekend came it brought the first of September and the time for him to leave home for good. His room is emptier now than it was when he was in college. He is sharing a rental home with three other guys.

This step into the real world of careers, bills, home repair, insurance, and responsibility is a big one. Like the change of seasons it has come gradually over the years, and we think he is ready. It is an exciting time for him (once the roof leaks are fixed and the painting is complete) of finding out more about who he is and who he is meant to become. He is living in Nashville and will be learning more about that big city up the road from our town – the place of his parents’ childhood.  We are happy for him.

It does feel quieter here at our home as we settle in for the season ahead. Autumn – and this being true empty nesters – is a beautiful time of year and we will embrace it. And then, when Winter comes, can Spring be far behind? Who knows what lies ahead in the next season of our lives? Time will tell, as it always does.

Good Luck, Son. Our love is always with you, wherever you are.