I’ll proudly admit it. Eduflack is a strong advocate for data in the learning process. I make no apologies for believing that we need good research and data to determine how effective teaching and learning actually is. Without such data, we are just wishin’, hopin’, and prayin’ that we are getting it right.
Our kids deserve more than just a wish and a prayer. When it comes to their educations, we need to both trust and verify. And education data is the only way to do that.
Of course, that means educators, parents, policymakers, and others in the mix must be able to distinguish between good data collection and lousy. It means ensuring that, if data is collected, it is promptly provided to teachers so they can use it to improve teaching and learning in their classrooms. And it means eliminating those tests that are simply done to check a box, without linking back to our students and their demonstrated knowledge.
The topic of #eddata is usually (one of) the third rails of education policy. For many, assessment is the third circle of Dante’s inferno. They preach of how testing (and the data coming from it) is destroying our schools, stressing out our kids, and stripping the joy of learning from our classrooms. It is also seen as the guillotine in a results-oriented system, used to punish schools, teachers, and kids who are not where we want them to be.
In the battle for edu-hearts and minds, such a false narrative can be incredibly powerful. It can lead parents and educators to forget that data has always been an important part of our K-12 system, and that while specific tests may come and go, not testing our kids just isn’t an option. And it ignores the truth that teachers speak each and every day, that they need data to effectively lead their classrooms, and the question should be what data is collected and how are we assessing student learning (not if we assess it at all).
For the past decade, the Data Quality Campaign has worked across the country to address the false narrative and help policymakers and educators see the importance of educational data quality (thus the name). Because of their work, we see states that have created incredibly strong data systems focused on the learner. We are seeing policymakers and leaders asking the right questions when it comes to data and accountability. And we are seeing where good data is improving instruction, particularly for those communities that need it the most.
Earlier this week, DQC launched an important new report and all to action, Time to Act: Making Data Work for Students. In Time to Act, DQC lays out four key priorities when it comes to ed data:
- Measure What Matters: Be clear about what students must achieve and have the data to ensure that all students are on track to succeed.
- Make Data Use Possible: Provide teachers and leaders the flexibility, training, and support they need to answer their questions and take action.
- Be Transparent and Earn Trust: Ensure that every community understands how its schools and students are doing, why data is valuable, and how it is protected and used.
- Guarantee Access and Protect Privacy: Provide teachers and parents timely information on their students and make sure it is kept safe.
In issuing this important call, DQC President Aimee Guidera noted that education data should be seen as a flashlight to guide teaching and learning, not as a punitive hammer for teachers and students. As correct as Guidera is, I propose we take it a step further. Ultimately, ed data needs to be our Bat signal (of course the good, Michael Keaton kind, not the Ben Affleck model), one that we signals when we need help and one that makes clear to the community at large that we are watching over those who need our help. That even in dark hours, there is an incredible collection of tools and data and commitment available on the edu-utility belt to help all those who need it.
No, are schools are no longer waiting for Superman. Batman has taught us the right tools can turn a regular guy into a superhero. When that ed data light is shown in the right way, it can illuminate the path to help all educators and kids succeed. We need to make sure that that light is as strong as possible, equipping all educators with the tools to be the superheroes they are.