Making Data Matter

Interesting day at the EdWeek Leader’s Forum on Making Data Matter.  Dan Katzir, Broad, did a great job kicking off the event with lessons learned over 10 years.  Amiee Guidera did a great job outlining the Data Quality Campaign agenda.
It was disappointing only 6% of the participants responded that most or all (60-100%) of their teachers were data savvy (and 38% said that almost none were).  It strikes me that all schools need to have 100% data savvy teachers fast, and if you agree, that has serious implications for hiring, training, and evaluating in the coming year.
This stuff is complicated, but school/system leaders need to boil it down to a few important goals (all kids readers; college/career ready), picking metrics, providing tools, and pushing hard for consistently strong execution.  We heard about a good examples from Elgin IL and Ontarioville Elementary.
With all of the cool stuff coming down the pipe–adaptive assessment, learning games, second gen online learning–school leaders need to strike the right balance between execution and innovation.  High performing schools execute at high levels–consistently high quality standards-based instruction over time across the curriculum. But after easy gains, schools need to innovate to personalize learning and build better support systems (for kids & teachers). Managing change in doable chunks so that staff members feel confident about their work is a real art; teachers can focus on doing something well or doing something different, not both.
I’ve very enthusiastic about a new generation of learning tools.  They will allow existing schools to evolve and new schools to be formed.  Budget cuts will make the transition more difficult, but it’s forcing us to ask tough questions about what’s really important.  Data-driven instruction should be at the heart of that conversation.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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1 Comment

I agree with you, Tom, that teachers need to be aware of their students strengths, weaknesses, learning goals, and progress towards meeting them. I'm not sure that every teacher rated as data-incompetent knows too little about students to effectively help them learn. I would gladly be standardized-test-data-blind if I was held accountable for detailed narratives about students' data as demonstrated by projects, portfolios, and performances.
Absolutely, teachers should know where their students are and take students' performance as a measure of their own effectiveness. The Fed and public education should acknowledge that there are richer forms of data out there that our system aggressively precludes us from collecting or even thinking about collecting.
Let's include more stake-holders in discussions about picking metrics and educate students, parents, teachers, administrators, and communities about the possibilities for standards-based assessment via more authentic learning and work. Maybe we could develop some school-choice and personalization via assessment options in traditional schools.
Otherwise we'll be "personalizing" education by drilling kids on the standardized test questions that they miss.


Tom Vander Ark

thanks Chad,
I'm hopeful that the comprehensive assessment consortia will make progress in the next two years on this front but they'll face budget pressures that derailed New England efforts a few years ago.
Like state chiefs in NY, ME, WV and others, I'm very interested in incorporating performance assessment into learning records. Students in the City Prep Academies that we're opening will build an extensive portfolio of work.

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