Are traditional report cards “vanity metrics?”

Are traditional report cards “vanity metrics?”

In the business world, we talk about the difference between vanity metrics and meaningful metrics. Vanity metrics are like dandelions – they might look pretty, but to most of us, they’re weeds, using up resources, and doing nothing for your property value.

from “Know the Difference Between Your Data and Your Metrics” by Jeff Bladt and Bob Filbin, Harvard Business Review  |  11:00 AM March 4, 2013

English – 92
Math – 89
Science – 91
History – 88
PE – 93
Art – 90

Such a report card might make the refrigerator. But does it really say very much about the student’s growing capacities in writing (ideas, organization, word choice, sentence fluency, conventions, voice)? And did you assume from that last sentence that I was referring to English, or did you assume that such metrics could cut across the departmentalized curricular landscape and comprise parts of all the subject grades? Do we know if the student asks probing questions and demonstrates curiosity for understanding more deeply? What do those dandelions tell us about the student’s application of such thinking skills as divergent, emergent, and convergent explorations? What do we know of the student’s perseverance, resilience, risk taking, and grit? Can we make any deductions about the student’s observation and experimentation capabilities? Do we know how the student has demonstrated integrity and empathy from those pretty flowers on the refrigerator door?

From that data set, the one that will live indefinitely in the fireproof cabinets and ethernets of schools, what do we know about the student’s growth and emergence in the 4, 5, or 7Cs of 21st century skills? What do we see on that report card about mindset?

What are we grading? What are we measuring? What are we commenting on? What are we collecting and recording and archiving data on? What do we say matters most about our children? Do our report cards shed light on what we say we value most?

Is your school asking these questions? Why or why not? Are these questions among more systemic considerations that you are examining?