Tripod article brings big response


Wow—write one little article, and get a big reaction.

That’s how I am feeling now, on the heels of my article about the “Tripod Survey” of students now in use in the Minneapolis Public Schools.  I wrote the article because several teachers approached me, independent of each other, and said “You should really write an article about the Tripod.” And so I did.

Apparently, the Minneapolis Public Schools didn’t like my article. According to a statement on their website, they feel I “left numerous facts” out of my article. Ouch. The statement goes on to address some of the points they think are most important, I suppose, about the Tripod, such as the fact that the costs have been greatly reduced (I covered the cost of the test in my article), that it is one of many ways teachers will be evaluated (I included this in my article as well), and what they think are the attributes of the survey (I mentioned this, too).

My article was born of conversations with teachers, including the one who goes on the record, and my brief meeting with district staff. I met with them, in the Davis building, took notes, and abided by their stated half-hour time frame to meet with me.

Additionally, I spoke with several parents, including two who witnessed the Tripod being given to young children, and their feelings were clear: the survey caused disruption and unease in the classroom. Overall, the teachers and parents I spoke with had strong memories of, and reactions to, the Tripod. No one seemed pleased with it, and this represents the view of the people “on the ground,” who were impacted by the survey itself.

The district’s view was clearly different. I get that. They have a vantage point, administratively, that does not necessarily match up with what those in the classroom, or in school buildings, may experience. To their credit, they responded to the complaints voiced by teachers about the Tripod, and they altered the survey for this school year. (I put this in my article too).

The demographic questions on the survey, such as whether or not there were computers in a child’s home, or who they live with, and whether or not their parents went to college, seemed very out of place, to those I spoke with, for a student survey. In fact, one of the teachers I spoke with, but who did not want to be named in the article, told me how hard it was to read the questions out loud to her students, because the personal questions were uncomfortable for them. The kids didn’t want to answer in a way that differed from their peers, and they were bothered by the invasive nature of the questions.

I think this is important information. How policy gets enacted in the real lives of people is necessary to write about. Whether or not the district’s intentions were good in administering the survey in the first place was not the focus of my article. Instead, I wrote about what teachers and students felt while taking and handing out the survey.

For that, I seem to have offended the district, with whom I have enjoyed working, and whose stories—good, bad, and somewhere in between—I will keep telling.