Metrics vs. Reality

I despise metrics.

No, I’m not talking about centimeters and meters, or kilos and that lot. I’m talking about our nation’s apparent obsession with measuring anything and everything – from length of time a rep is on the phone and says please and thank you (if you have ever had the misfortune to work in a call center that embraces metrics – I’ve been there and I pity you) to qualifying a school’s funding based on how many students get a high score on some MAPS test.

It crosses from schools to work situations. For instance, my husband was recently hired by a company that employs nearly 1/4 million individuals around the world. One quarter MILLION, folks. As he was going through the preparation to be hired, having worked through a temp agency for this company for the past six months, he was informed that the metrics, the customer service reports, would take the highest precedence.

Now he’s in IT support – sort of help desk, sort of more. His job is to help people with their computer problems – and he loves it. He loves working with people, and helping to solve problems. It is what has made him so highly regarded, so sought after, in the location that he is in. People know they can go to him and get the service they need, without condescension, without delay, without any b.s.

So here he is, with his future boss, trying to understand how to balance the metrics and the customer service. So he asks point blank, “What about the client and their needs?” And he receives an answer back, clearly stating that the reports should come before anything else. Because, after all, the metrics will clearly show the level of customer service.

I hope I’m not the only one who understands how asinine this is. Basically it is an edict from above to…

  1. Fill out paperwork
  2. Put the customer SECOND

And our schools are no different.

I’m not sure which came first in implementing these foolish empty of real fact reports known as metrics – but I strongly suspect public schools.

And what started me on this whole line of thought?

The article on Finnish education published by The Smithsonian Magazine has the following quote:

“If you only measure the statistics, you miss the human aspect.”

And why can we not see that?

We are all so different. So stunningly unique. Applying metrics, forcing our children to submit to tests that claim to accurately measure their progress is a complete farce. Why can we not trust our own judgment?

I will admit that it is difficult at times. More than a year into homeschooling Emily I still have my moments of doubt. Will she learn to read and write well? Can she handle math? Does she understand our nation and world history?

But then I SEE her learning. And when she expresses frustration, doubt in her own abilities, I always ask her, “How do we learn?”

“We keep trying, Mama, over and over until we finally get it.”

Yeah kid, that’s exactly right.

Screw the metrics – I’m going with the reality that’s right in front of my eyes.

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