As school starts, many parents are being bombarded with information about behavioral data collection on their children. A lot of this is tied to the trendy push for social-emotional learning (SEL), and the attempt to connect behavior with a child’s ability to read and do well in school.
But it’s troubling to see schools monitoring the behavior of every child so tightly. Children will not have perfect behavior. Nor should they be expected to. Such obsession with behavior wastes everyone’s time. It could also make a child nervous and dislike school.
School (next to home) is the place to learn good behavior. Most children show up for school with typical behavior. There’s no need to note in general how much eye contact they have with their peers, or teach them to monitor their own behavior constantly. How does any adult interpret such things?
As a former teacher with an undergraduate degree in teaching students with emotional disabilities, I’m concerned about so much scrutiny of a child’s emotions and actions.
It’s especially troubling that behavioral data is loaded into computers. It’s making a lot of parents paranoid—with good reason.
These data systems are especially confusing to understand.
The MIBLSI stands for the Michigan Integrated Behavior and Learning Support Initiative. The program highlights Fidelity Assessments, Capacity Assessments and Reach Assessments. It’s one of many SEL programs flooding the marketplace. One glance at this program raises more questions than answers.
Acronyms surrounding data collection are aplenty. SRSS, SWIS, PPSC, PBIS, MTSS, SWPBIS, TFI, and R-TFI are just a few. This understandably confuses parents. It could make them distrust their child’s school and teachers. My guess is teachers are confused by such programs too.
What’s especially frightening is how this new information is stored and whether it will be there forever.
A child’s sensitive behavioral information used to be recorded and placed in a school’s locked filing cabinet. Even then, there have always been concerns and controversy about how much behavioral information should be kept and left to follow the child.
But storing massive amounts of behavioral information about every child, much of it frivolous but made to sound serious, raises ethical questions seemingly ignored in the SEL fervor.
Serious Emotional/Behavioral Difficulties
Teachers well-prepared in psychology and child development have always identified problematic behaviors in students.
Simple observational checklists and tests to pinpoint difficulties in both behavior and reading are nothing new. Older assessment is also succinct and easier to understand.
Children, families, and teachers need support when real problematic behavior occurs. Any unusual behavior that is extreme and/or repetitive should raise concerns. Here are two examples.
- Explosive Behavior: The child is always frustrated and acts out. There’s real danger that they could hurt themselves or others.
- Social Withdrawal: A child rarely speaks and is a loner. Sometimes these children go unnoticed, especially in a large class.
Emotional and behavioral difficulties are often transient due to temporary problems at home. Children whose parents are going through a divorce need extra support. Children in the flood areas will likely need much counseling and assistance as they return to school.
Some children have serious psychological or neurological difficulties, that will require more extensive attention.
What’s Needed Concerning Student Behavior
Parents need to feel comfortable working with teachers and other professionals at the school when it comes to their child’s behavioral difficulties whatever they might be.
What would truly assist in this effort are:
- smaller class sizes that enable teachers to better get to know their students;
- qualified general and special education teachers who have studied psychology and child development;
- schools staffed with a qualified support team like counselors, nurses, and school psychologists;
- good community mental health facilities to assist children with more serious mental health challenges;
- resource classes with teachers fully trained to help students individually or in small groups who are experiencing emotional/behavioral disabilities.
We want children to feel good, be social, and have positive emotions. But this isn’t going to be facilitated by measuring every glance, misplaced homework assignment, messy desk, or bad mood.
It’s dangerous to a child for adults to place so much emphasis on behavior, and to put so much about them on a computer where others get access.
And how do these behavioral variables connect to learning? That isn’t clear either. If a child is doing what they do best—being a kid—it doesn’t matter.
Karen Kingsbury says
This is an excellent article.
The sectuon, “What would truly assist in this effort” is the MOST IMPORTANT part!
Until educational professionals ( TEACHERS, SOCIAL WORKERS, PSYCHOLOGISTS,.) are respected & given thenpower to MAKE DECISIONS about curriculum, chuld development & behavior management, the “sinking ship of education” will continue to plunge downward.
Due to CONTROL by the president, state governors, billionaires & companies, like Pearson, education will continue its downward spiral of failure.
Nancy Bailey says
My favorite part too, Karen. Thanks for taking the time to comment.
Have they measured the signs of stress before and during those darn tests.? Children in grades three through twelve have headaches, stomach aches, insomnia, hives, and behavior changes. Here is no need to do another study just to waste money and time. We know what the problems and the article have a solution.
Nancy Bailey says
Yes! So much testing! Great point, Amy. Thank you!
Thomas Ultican says
SEL has been taught in school, at home and in church or other community based assemblies for centuries. The difference is now the effort is being directed by governmental and non-governmental organizations and even more troubling it is being put in data storage. SEL is important, but making it the prerogative of “big brother” is a serious and dangerous error.
Nancy Bailey says
Thank you, Thomas!
Jill Johnson says
I refused things like class dojo. I don’t want to know how my child behaved in school for every second of his day. Did he sit still enough to learn something and not disrupt the class excessively? ok-we are good then. no-then we probably need to talk rather than count on some app. Kids should be learn to self-monitor behavior (while keeping track can help some who are learning to do so) apps seem to be creating kids who can’t (or won’t) behave in class unless they are constantly getting points and dings.
Nancy Bailey says
I agree. Thank you, Jill. Excellent points. I’ve nothing to add!
There are many elephants in this room. This type of invasive monitoring is despicable. Also, I don’t see where is it is required that parents be notified (timely) of behavioral concerns that are substantial enough to justify secret “measurements” and documentation. Why would parents agree to this scheme? They wouldn’t, if they had a choice. Since they have no choice, I say it’s time to webcast instruction in the classroom. Make it available for parents to review regularly so they may be apprised of concerns going on in their child’s classroom; whether due to the child’s issues, or surrounding factors. If an issue arises to create a privacy concern, the webcast can be edited before being made available on the parent site. Webcasts would allow parents to reinforce instruction at home, gauge the efficacy of their child’s teacher and administrative processes of the school. Parents are being excluded in material ways that are unacceptable. Universal vouchers now!
Nancy Bailey says
So you dislike invasive monitoring, but you wish to have more invasive monitoring, only this time of the class and the teacher. Wow! Instead of webcasts, public schools beg parents to be involved. There are always ample volunteer opportunities in public schools. Parents need to pay attention to the measuring that usually comes from some outside partner or group that makes money. Then they need to raise questions and speak out at school board meetings.
These measurement which concern parents and many teachers alike are coming from the very people who want vouchers like you. Vouchers won’t help this. What do you know is going on in charter and private schools? They aren’t held accountable to you.
A private school or charter school may at present be just as likely to follow suit on gathering data, but that does not change my belief that families are entitled to choose the best educational environment to suit their student. It is my belief that once vouchers become universal, parent wishes will become more important to the faceless bureaucrats making these ridiculous polices. Your suggestion that parents and students attend board meetings and wait patiently for arrogant politicians to hear their cry and make amends is folly. I wonder when parents will realize that they are not lawfully required to allow their children to use the internet without direct parental supervision. Once they figure that out, goodbye data collection. Where is everyone’s brain? Unfortunately, the only way to get the message across to indifferent public educators is to play devil’s advocate. True a webcast is invasive. However, it is intended to be shared only within the school community (parents and admin) to capture substantive teacher instruction and the occasional student query, rather than analytical data, The pros outweigh the cons for webcasting. Furthermore, a classroom is a public arena where there is no expectation of privacy. Parents want to be materially engaged in the daily practices of educating their students. Working parents cannot spare more than a few days per semester to be “involved” in the conventional manner you describe. Finally, while educator’s “beg” parents to be involved, they also seek to control the level of involvement. I emphasize the word “control” because parents and educators should have mutual say in implementing best practices (without disrupting); but it is the educators who wield (misplaced) power and are passionately resistant to such conversations. Now why is that?
Nancy Bailey says
This blog post is about collecting behavioral data on children and putting it on the computer. We are getting a bit off track here.
We do disagree about choice. It has been shown to fail in the past. And it will never fairly accommodate children. We’ve seen the folly of corruption in charter schools. And prestigious private schools are selective.
But thank you for commenting.
“Off track”. Well gee thanks for indulging. Your reply is typical of an educator mindset, especially when they dislike opinions from the “other side”. This attitude treats certain unpopular opinions as less important than others by employing dismissive replies, such as your latest.
I must point out that the issue of collecting data has many facets, not the least of which is the entrenched power imbalance characterized by overarching, one-sided policies in government schooling. I would caution to never say never, especially about Choice. It seems to be shaking things up just fine, as it should. An education is a uniquely impactful life experience and as such, should not be subject to meddling by self-serving outsiders who tend to only look in the mirror when they are wearing rose-colored glasses (see nationwide remediation data). Thanks for listening. I hope you can take off the educator hat and let these comments steep a bit. *Note about grammar- please accept my apology for the atrocious grammar in the previous post. It would have been much improved, if edit were an option.
Nancy Bailey says
You seem to want to argue. I only meant the article is not about choice, but about data collection of children that I think we both agree is harmful. I also take pride in the friends I have who disagree with me. I rarely deny any contrary comment. And I look at most issues as a parent. Hope that clears things up.
Yes, I am arguing passionately that an education is a uniquely impactful life experience and as such, should not be subject to meddling by outsiders (within reason, given the public school monopoly). If outsiders won’t acknowledge this basic tenet that bounds them, then I further argue that those outsiders serve themselves, not the children. I’d like to thank you for adhering to American values (barring censorship of unpopular opinions) and allowing this topic to be explored, as it so relates to your original topic. I won’t persist, as I sense you are weary of me. Thanks again.
Nancy Bailey says
Not at all. You can’t blog about schools and think everyone will agree with you. However, I would not call it a monopoly if the community is involved and can participate in how their schools are run. Ha. I do like to sneak in the last word though.
LOL….not so fast on the last word…..
Loser of the week
School choice critics. A new study by the Urban Institute think tank found low-income students in Florida who attend private schools with the help of a controversial, state-approved voucher program are more likely to enroll in and graduate from in-state public colleges than similarly situated peers who stick with public schools.
Nancy Bailey says
I’d like to see the actual study. What private schools are they talking about? The Urban Institute is a reform group in favor of vouchers.
Also, if you defund public schools and take away their programs and drive away real teachers they will eventually fail.
That doesn’t mean Florida private schools accept everyone or that they are great schools. We don’t know because they aren’t assessed.
Most vouchers for special education go to unregulated religious private or charter schools in Florida.