Get Off the Bandwagons

Why is it that we in education grab onto good ideas and treat them as if they are THE ONE ABSOLUTE solution for anything that is challenging us and then squeeze the life out of it making it hurtful instead of helpful?

I have been in education a long time and I have seen movements come and go and in each case it takes way too long to find balance in the use of good ideas. We go all in. We drink ththe kool-aid, we spend too much money on the bells and whistles that come with the good idea (and there is always something to spend money on), we even hire MORE administrators to manage the new idea.

And then the data collection starts. It is never unbiased. It almost never collects relevant data because the data collection system is structured to skew data in favor of the new idea.

You all know this is true. Whole Language, phonics only, any number of school wide behavioral programs, social skills programs, and individualized behavior modification methods.

I love collecting data. I do. I love slowly and methodically unraveling the mystery of what makes my students become maladaptive. I am not opposed to collecting data.

I am not contradicting myself. I am making the case here that we should never collect data in blanket, one-size-fits all ways. We should never have an intervention already in mind for  kiddos whose data tells us the obvious. Anyone who doesn’t get this by the third time around bumps up an intervention level, and that level is not individualized. It’s most often a one-size-fits all intervention that includes reteaching and more practice. And the reteaching and practice has nothing to do with he individual and usually necessitates more skewed data collection. And if you are a kiddo that still doesn’t get it afterth-1 that intervention, then you get an IEP.  And the data used to justify an IEP is typically pretty useless. We still don’t understand the kiddo. We still don’t understand the maladaptive behavior, we are still busy trying to explain the lack of response to intervention by blaming the kid. He is attention seeking, he is hungry for power and control, he is avoiding…. blah, blah, blah.

With poor data collection, we continue to develop ineffective interventions, we continue to hold each student at arm’s length. The data collection tool stands between us and the students. It gets in the way of relationship building. We collect information we don’t need,  and that data drives our decisions. Ugh.

I agree when we have a student not responding to the everydayness of school, not growing, not learning efficiently, we have to intervene. But let’s do so mindfully and start with relationship building. Let’s not assume that once a kiddo knows better he will do better.

And let’s not assume that once they know better and still don’t do better it is because they won’t, that it’s a choice. And that is where the wheels fall off the wagon. We don’t dig deep enough. We don’t individualize the data collection. We make a lot of assumptions and those assumptions render us at the very least neglectful and at worst, hurtful.


My point is this. We must stop jumping on every trend with full gusto at the expense of our students. We must look at every possible remedy objectively and critically. We must stop throwing good money after bad, stop trying to find a one-size-fits all answer.

Why? Because the variables are too many to count for each and every student. If we don’t consider as many variables as possible, we are not treating our students as individuals. And when we stop looking at our students as whole persons with individual needs, then we are part of the p

And yes, PBIS, I am talking about you.



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