Ron Isaac’s Commentary: DESSA

Nov 21, 2021 by

The Devereaux Student Strengths Assessment, is not named after Blanche Devereaux the Golden Girl, but is a product of Aperture, an education technology company, that was blessed by the City with an $18 million windfall contract and charged with a laudable-sounding but impossible mission of rating students in such elusive areas as social-emotional “competence” and resilience.

It’s not being marketed as a test but rather as a “screening tool”, and consists of many dozens of questions that are hopelessly ambiguous, subjective,  insuperably hard to define or quantify and notoriously adaptable to any bias or foregone conclusion. It asks compelling questions that unfortunately cannot be answered by a referenced , non-personalized standard.

Every question can be honestly answered in an infinite number of ways.  They are focused on the well-being and self-awareness of students.  That’s praiseworthy, but it doesn’t make them viable. They lack precision and uniformity. It’s commendable that our schools are increasingly dedicated to the “whole child” beyond academics, but the fruits of those efforts may be as worrying as enlightening.

What will be done with the information gathered?  Who will have access to it?  How will tight to privacy be protected from data mining or other unauthorized use for profit or research?  Who will interpret the data and what qualifications will they possess beyond a rapid training?  Will they have a stake in the results?  Will findings be part of students’ permanent school records and follow them as they are promoted?  What will be the role of parents?

The Department of Education is no slouch when it comes to piling more tasks upon the onerous burden already imposed on its educators.  They will keep generating gimmicks until “the cows come home”.  The problem is that there is an inexhaustible supply of cows in the field and new ones are being born every minute in the nursery of the DOE executive intellects.

Educators are glad to do everything in their power to help kids, but, being human, their time and energy is not unlimited.  However skeptical they may be about DESSA, they will make the best of it. Arrangements have been negotiated that will enable that.
Ron Isaac

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