Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Multiple Measures of Progress: Get Off That Scale!

I've been thinking a lot about how to measure success. For the first time ever, I have exercised consistently for more than thirty days straight. Almost daily, I climb on the scale only to be disappointed and frustrated. The weight I'm attempting to shed is not coming off, and I shake my head in wonder attempting to understand the problem. Looking at a round number on an electronic scale seems like a logical way to measure progress, but I'm starting to rethink this unhelpful practice.

You see, there are several benefits of routine physical activity. Positive endorphins like dopamine and serotonin increase my level of happiness. The sweaty clothes I toss in the laundry basket make me feel accomplished and disciplined. My clothes fit a little looser, and I'm not completely embarrassed to be seen in my swimsuit. I can listen to audio books while I'm on the treadmill or taking a stroll through the neighborhood, completing two goals at once. These obvious benefits should matter, but it seems like I discount them. If I value the number on the scale more than the combined benefits of exercise, I am missing the mark. What I really I need to do is triangulate all the data in order to find my story.

After reading Assessment in Perspective by Claire Landrigan and Tammy Mullligan a few years ago, my thoughts on measuring academic success in literacy shifted dramatically. Every reader I have ever taught has a story, and my goal is uncover individual potential and build a sense of agency. I want my students to be more than a number on a scale. They need lots of ways  to see how they are growing, and our job as teachers is to provide a wide range of feedback in order for them to continue working towards their goals. What measures of success are you using in your classroom? How do you offer multiple measures of growth? How do kids know when they are making progress?

I think it's time we all step off the scale and start seeking a deeper truth. Let's find our own stories and those of our students, and let's learn to celebrate the small things. Our efforts matter. Growth takes time. It is a process, but as long as we keep showing up, that's what counts the most!


  1. The testing frenzy irks me!!! Why do 4 out of 5 kids come to kindergarten thinking they hung the moon but by fifth grade it has dropped down to only 1 out of 5!!!How Do I Learn Just Who I Am?

    I learn from you who I am.
    Within your eyes I see
    reflected me.
    Within your voice I hear
    how you see me.
    You are the mirror that I look into
    and mold the image of myself.
    I sense the way you hold me,
    and from your touch
    I feel my form, my shape.
    And if I like what I see in
    your eyes,
    your voice,
    your touch –
    My heart responds and reaches out.
    Then in its reaching, grows and grows,
    until I see myself
    as separate.
    That separate self – in turn –
    can love you back.
    Because you taught me
    who I am,
    and I am loved.

  2. The poem was by Ruth Reardon!