Monday, October 8, 2012

The Uber-focus on Data: Good or Bad?

After attending my state's first day of our annual School Leadership conference, I came away pounded with one word: DATA. In fact, during day one of this three-day conference where school leaders from all 96 counties across the state gathered, I tweeted the following:

"By far, the overwhelming focus at 's conf. is and - closing gaps b/t stud. pops. "

My state department of Education obliged with a response of their own:

"TN Dept of Education@TNedu2h  That's what it's all about! Proven strategies that help educators reach the hard-to-reach groups. It can be done. "

Now, here are a few further observations of mine:

I am glad the State Department of Education replied back to me on twitter. I am excited we have a twitter account, for starters! The State department should be commended.

I also need to point out that I am not against data, data talks, data walls, and/or data summaries, reports, etc. (a major focus of the three sessions on day one of the conference). However, I do have a few issues with the over-emphasis on data. You see, if the data we are looking at is from an irrelevant source, then I am against it. And, yes... you guessed it, I believe our current source of data is way off-base.

For example, here is the data source I think is off-base: (the SOLE focus of the conference I attended)

1. Standardized test scores which are one snapshot of an individual. I believe these assessments do not reveal critical/higher order thinking. The scores/data from these assessments do not reveal a student's character, creativity, or determination.

On the contrary, here are four data sources I believe are worthwhile:

1) Graduation Rates as these data point toward the human trait to "win" and persist through challenges. After all, Sigmund Freud once said, "man's innate need to survive has transitioned into his need to win."
2. The use and implementation of technology as it is the tool our students need to master in order to be effective workers. Data should be collected on technology integration and the mastery of these tools.
3. Student engagement through surveys suggested through the likes of Philip Schlechty.
4. Career inventories which solicit student voice and their own desires for what each student wants to make of himself or herself. Assessments such as the Kuder Career Inventory which accompanies the ACT's Explore Test is one such tool.
5. Student behaviors, Creativity/Innovation, and Literacy are three more data sources I believe are much more important when compared to standardized tests.

What are your thoughts? Are standardized tests the only source of data we should look at or do believe there are much better sources out there to gauge student learning today?

1 comment:

  1. Wow! Poignant and focused. Time to eradicate obsolete assessments, which only serve to undermine true teaching & learning. Dare i say we go back to Aristotle teaching his students under a willow tree?


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