Friday, July 23, 2021

The Metrics that Matter

Some weeks are the kind of week where I get to Friday and say, "Wow, it's Friday already.  The week flew by, and it was full of so many delights that I didn't expect."  That week is not this week.  I woke up in the middle of the night thinking I had made it to Saturday, but of course, I hadn't.  Happily, today should be an easier day, and then, Saturday will arrive.

In this blog post, I've written about the visit from the health inspector.  On Wednesday, I had a workshop/training for ABHES accreditation that lasted all day--and I do mean all day, from 9-5 with very few breaks.  It was virtual, but so draining.  What made it most draining was that it was an exact repeat of the workshop/training that I went to in 2019 in Savannah.  Exactly the same.

In 2019, it wasn't new information to me.  And now, with one more ABHES visit under my belt, it's still not new information.

It was also draining because of the true believer tone of the presenters.  I understand all the ways that assessment could help me improve classes and programs, if I only had time and resources.  As it is, we gather statistics, look for patterns, and if you're me, nothing clear leaps out.  I wish I could say that I see the one course that everyone fails, the one teacher that drives people out of the program, but it's never that clear to me.  This student leaves for one reason, another student leaves for a different reason, and very few of them leave for reasons that I can do anything about.

There's one school of thought that says that students aren't telling the truth about why they are leaving, that there's a deeper, underlying reason.  I have looked and studied, and I still don't see it.  I used to think that's because I'm bad at assessment and accreditation, but I no longer believe that to be true.  I have seen enough improvement drives (we'll change this textbook!  we'll test in this new way!  we'll flip the classroom!  we'll change learning management systems!) to know that there's seldom a one-trick way to solve a school's woes.

I don't believe that there are simple solutions.  I don't believe there are solutions that don't require money.  Being part of a training session that supposes that we all have lots of people to do the work of gathering the data, analyzing the data, and coming up with solutions is more exhausting than I can fully articulate.  Assuming that our solutions will be greeted with plenty of staffing and plenty of money is so heartbreaking to me--that has never been my experience.  I have been the person scrounging for pens and justifying why we need another 10 reams of paper to get us to the end of the term.

I also wonder if my weariness isn't about the metrics that the accreditors have chosen as the way we will assess our programs:  retention, getting a first job, student surveys, employer surveys, externship surveys.

Here's what I'm realizing:  the metrics that matter to me are not the ones that I know how to measure.  Did you add chapters to the content of your character during your time with us in school?  Is your life improved, and not just in terms of better job choices?  Have you learned better ways of solving problems?  Are you going out into the world to make it better?  Will the world be better because of the time you spent with us in school?

Yes, I realize that we can't easily develop assessment rubrics to answer those questions.  Yes, I am aware of the implications of the fact that I can't measure the metrics that matter to me. 

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