2022. It’s finally here. The one thought that kept so many of us going these last two treacherous, dangerous, and often reckless, years was that if we could just hold on a little longer, we would be happy and free to shamelessly quote Taylor Swift for an entire year. Everything will be alright if we just keep dancing until it’s 2022.
“22”. The sixth song on Taylor’s fourth album, Red, the song was certified 3x platinum. (6+4+3 = 13) A catchy little tune nestled snugly between All Too Well – undisputedly the best song in Taylor’s catalog – and We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together – the country-rock-pop anthem that has become the theme song of the U.S. Senate.
[Aside: The Senate reference is simply a test to see whether the U.S. Senate appears next week on the list of LinkedIn searches I’ve appeared in recently along with the Department of Homeland Security and House of Representatives. Every time I think that I should stop doing things like this, I almost do.]
We’re happy, free, confused and lonely in the best way
It’s miserable and magical, oh yeah
Thinking back 40 years to when I was 22, it was a time that was equal parts miserable and magical; and I was happy, free, and confused, and lonely in the best way. At 22, I was making the transition from music to education – standing in front of a high school math class for the first time, meter stick in hand, and beginning a master’s program in educational research.
Despite two great school administrators, a wonderful mentor in the math department, and some fine, dedicated colleagues among the faculty, it didn’t take me long at all to figure out that a career in education was gonna be bad news. It was not too late to follow the advice of my father (a career high school mathematics teacher) and apply to law school. I should’ve said no, but like many of us, I suspect, I looked at what lay ahead of me in education and concluded I gotta have you. And I look back now at a career in large-scale testing with few regrets at how I ignored when they said, “run as fast as you can.”
For 30 years, I had the time of my life fighting dragons with you. But now it’s 2022 and my career has run its course. The world moves on, another day, another drama, drama. But not for me, not for me, all I think about is karma.
Yeah, we’re happy, free, confused and lonely at the same time
It’s miserable and magical, oh yeah
Here the field stands at the beginning of 2022. It truly is both a miserable and magical time for educational measurement and assessment. We are happy, free, confused, and lonely at the same time.
On the one hand, it’s a magical time. We are poised for a revolution in the evolution of educational assessment. Thanks to advances in technology, so many of the walls that have held us back for so long are ready to fall down. Continuous, unobtrusive collection of data related to instruction and student learning and the development and application of advanced models to greatly enhance the utility of data collected is within our grasp. There are innovative people who will do anything to see it through. They are the people who see the starlight and dream impossible things.
Additionally, the educational measurement community now seems more ready than ever to reconnect with our educational Heritage, to rub the Moss off of stale and static conceptions of reliability, validity, and fairness, and to look inside the black box.
On the other hand, never has the world of educational measurement and assessment seemed more miserable. Everything has changed. It’s like we’re dancing with our hands tied, cause lately I don’t even know what page we’re on. We’ve stepped into a cruel world where everybody stands and keeps score, but the rules are changed every day. What do we measure? How and whom do we measure? Why do we measure? What do we do with the results? Simple complications and miscommunications lead to fallout, so many walls up we can’t break through. It’s hard to fight when the fight ain’t fair.
It feels like one of those nights
We ditch the whole scene
Some days the temptation is great just to ditch the whole scene, to look in the mirror and say, “I just, I mean, this is exhausting, you know? I’d be smart to walk away.”
If the image looking back at you is a measurement person, there are lots of other things to measure. If the image looking back at you is an educator, there are so many other ways that you can contribute to the improvement of instruction and student learning. But if the person in the mirror sees educational measurement as their calling, then you have no choice but to stay, stay, stay.
Yes, it seems like there’s always someone who disapproves; and verdicts come from those with nothing else to do. The stakes are high, the water’s rough, but this life that we love is ours.
Tonight’s the night when we forget about the heartbreaks
Tonight’s the night when we forget about the deadlines
Having decided to stay, our most important resolution for 2022 is look forward, not back. Yes, I am the first to quote Santayana, but remembering the past and learning from the past is different than being defined and doomed by ghosts from the past. There may be invisible strings tying us to a past that fails to meet expectations, but I am less concerned about the origins of regression than I am about the regression of the field. Not even a true believer in vertical scales can attempt to interpret the use of a statistic or statistical technique today solely on the basis of its origins or use a hundred years ago. Ah, vertical scales – this is why we can’t have nice things.
To move forward, our second most important resolution for 2022 is to forget about the deadlines, constraints, and other ties that bind us. Like gender, race, and fairness, deadlines are a social construct. For the past 50 years, we have allowed our work to be defined by deadlines based almost solely on fiscal years and government bureaucracy, and not on anything to do with education or measurement, let alone improvement or innovation in either of those. Fifty years is a long time. You play stupid games, you win stupid prizes.
All I’m saying’s as a field we can no longer allow any person, place, or thing to try and pull the reins in on us – particularly those who can’t see the forest for the trees. (It’s always OK to mix a little Linda Ronstadt in with your Taylor Swift.)
There will always be enough technicians to build the tests to meet the deadlines. Innovators who never leave well enough alone and innovations that improve the field and change the world are much more rare. They are not like the others, and in any given time and place there may be only one of them, but that’s the fun of them. They need to be nurtured and given time, space, and resources to grow and find each other. And when they do, sparks fly.
Understand that a sense of urgency is different than an artificial deadline. There is a sense of urgency in 2022. We must commit.
Tonight we’ll stand, get off our knees
Fight for what we’ve worked for all these years.
The battle will be long, it’s the fight of our lives. But make no mistake, for what we do in 2022 and in the years ahead, for the decisions we make and those we don’t make, for the actions we take and those we don’t take, for consequences intended and unintended, good or bad, successful or unsuccessful, we will be remembered.
If that’s the case, let’s commit to do what it takes to make 2022 and the years ahead magical in the best way.
If we do that, there’s a good chance that in 2122 the 13th edition of Historical and Conceptual Foundations of Measurement in the Human Sciences will be screaming long live all the magic we made beginning in 2022.
Long Live ’22.
Happy New Year!
Music (in my head) and Lyrics inspired by and liberally borrowed from Taylor Swift
Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay