That sneaky intervention part

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The text of the following email is from my former math department chair, and is used in the previous post. I thought I needed to pull out one more topic from this short email.

The link below provides a series of tutorial videos that would be appropriate to assign to students to watch who were absent. You could document that as an intervention and say that it was provided for students to view on their own time or make time available during the school day for students to view it while you move forward with other students.

Eduhonesty: “You could document that as an intervention …,”  she writes. This snippet brings out an aspect of government oversight that does not hit the table often enough. We are documenting interventions furiously. Documentation requirements keep rising, both for classes and individual students. At this rate, soon we will be keeping spreadsheets recording the exact time and length of all student bathroom breaks.

The opportunity cost of this documentation keeps growing as time demands created by that documentation balloon around us. I cannot prepare lessons while I am tracking individual interventions for everybody who is behind, which amounted to absolutely everybody in my math classes last year, at least if we compare their standardized test scores to last year’s PARCC expectations. The time taken to create documentation has to come from somewhere. Especially at the middle school and high school level, where teachers may teach 150 students or more, and usually teach over 100 if they are responsible for regular classes, that time will sometimes or even often be taken from instructional preparation. No other outcome is possible.

The instruction still happens, of course. But maybe science teachers do a shortened version of the experiment or skip the lab entirely because they can’t find time to do the set-up work. Maybe a PowerPoint ends up less carefully crafted because the teacher making that PowerPoint spent hours writing up interventions instead. Maybe a math activity gets cancelled because the teacher does not have time to count out all the little paper strips she needs to work on those fractions. Or the activity takes 50 minutes instead of 30 because the teacher ends up using to students to do prep work she would have done herself if she had not been producing mountains of data for administrators instead.

Eduhonesty: Opportunity costs from data gathering efforts are among the largest, invisible elephants sharing the room with us.

P.S. That “bathroom break” Google Doc spreadsheet would be useful, actually, if not for the time requirements involved. Some students take a break every class if they can. These students may lose hours each week to bathroom breaks, 5 to 10 minutes at a time. When teachers push back, those teachers face repeated interruptions of, “But it’s an emergency!” Girls can always call on lunar phases, too, invoking the time of the month excuse. No one fights back on that one, especially the guys.