Am I a geek or a nerd?

Triathlon and Teaching Cross Paths Again-AYP, FTP, NCLB, ESEA…
March 17, 2010, 3:01 pm
Filed under: Nerd | Tags: , , , ,

Sometime I’m dumbstruck by how stuff I learn from my coach and triathlon training are so related to things we do in the classroom.  Chuckie V (over there on my blogroll) had a great post today that, to translate for educators, was essentially about what tests measure and what we can learn from them. To sum up: the only thing we know for sure about tests is that they measure the ability to perform on said test, and even then sometimes the results change for reasons that are unrelated to preparation for the test.

There is this number many of us in cycling/triathlon shoot for, consider it the AYP of the bicycle world, called Functional Threshold Power, or FTP. To get this number you ride your ass off for 60 minutes as hard as you can or you extrapolate from a shorter, probably harder ride. This number then sets the basis for future training. Sort of like when we pre-test kids or do lots of practice tests for the real test, then see where they struggle and try to fix it. The goal being that next time the numbers are better. Unfortunately, we often use these test numbers as measurements of other things. For example, some might think that if I have a high FTP I must be in good shape and will do well at longer distances than someone with a lower FTP. Just like one might think that a school with a high proficiency percentage a better school than one with a lower proficiency percentage.  But there is the rub. The test measures the test circumstances but leaves everything else out.

Heavier riders have higher power numbers than lighter riders. Certainly sometimes I can push bigger numbers than out of shape fat guys, but in general, I’m never going to have numbers like the men, or like the women with 20 pounds on me. Doesn’t make me slower though, just means I’m using less wattage.  My FTP for one hour also doesn’t  indicate how I’ll do at 5 hours. Maybe I’ve just trained and trained to have high numbers for one hour.  I can only really get information when I compare my old FTP to my new FTP and use it plan my paces for future workouts. And then measure again…

Sound familiar?

Like maybe kids have just trained and trained to get the test questions right. Or that maybe we should consider some other factors, like native language or poverty or transience. Or maybe even compare a student’s current numbers to his past numbers. And then plan our instruction around where the students are…

Will the NCLB-The Sequel do this or will it just mean more testing at more grades in more disciplines? Will we get away from days of test prep? Will we hold up meaningless numbers and say they represent performance?

I don’t know, but I’m off to do a workout based on my FTP of 235: 30 minutes at 145 watts, 15 minutes at 200 watts, 10 minutes at 145 watts, 30 minutes at 200+ watts and a cool down. Ideally next time, my FTP will go up. Who knows what that really means…



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