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Educational tool that harms more than helps

Caricature of SteveOne of the latest educational trends designed to encourage learning is Data Walls.

These are displays in school classrooms tracking the progress  of individual student achievement in mathematics and other material.

Advocates argue that students are motivated to improve their academic standing when they see how they compare with their classmates in specific subjects.

A quick search online reveals multiple sites devoted to this new practice.  There is no shortage of tips on how to use Data Walls effectively.

A bad idea

 Despite claims that student identity is kept secret to avoid embarrassment or discouragement, every child in school knows whether he or she is flourishing or foundering. And to see plastered before you evidence that others are progressing while you struggle, does more harm than good.

Similar counterproductive practices have been around for decades. I know that from personal experience more than six decades ago.

When I was a fifth grader, our math class had to complete daily assignments in an allotted time. Those who did could go to the front of the room and write their name as creatively as possible in the center of the blackboard.

Those of who failed to get all correct answers would see our names written by the teacher under the day of the week in the upper left corner.

As each day passed and we completed the previous day’s assignment our names were erased.

All too often my name was the only one left under Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. I recall one especially embarrassing week when my name was under every day of the week on the wall of shame. When the teacher erased the days and my name to begin a new week, I saw that as failure and my teacher had eliminated me as a lost cause.

This experience soured me on mathematics and did nothing for my self-esteem.

Fortunately, I was athletically gifted for my age and that was my salvation.   But other students don’t have an alternative to bolster their confidence.

Let’s end this harmful practice of exposing children’s weaknesses in public.


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