A Flashlight, Not a Hammer, When it Comes to #EdData

For years now, the education community has debated the proper role of “education data” in the process. What started off as important information to help teachers tailor and improve their instruction quickly became a blunt instrument to punish students, teachers, classrooms, and schools. As with most things, the abuses of a valuable tool became the focus.

With a greater emphasis on testing and the use of testing information, ed data has gained even greater scrutiny. In Eduflack’s own school district, there is a growing call for eliminating all technology from the schools out of fear of education data and its impact on student privacy (among other things).

And that’s just a crying’ shame. And it doesn’t have to be that way.

Last year, the Data Quality Campaign hosted a national summit focused on the importance of education data. In it, DQC CEO Aimee Guidera spoke of the importance of using education data as a flashlight — to illuminate the way to improvement and success — rather than as a hammer to strike those who are struggling.

This week, DQC released From Hammer to Flashlight: A Decade of Data in Education. Noting that “although much work remains before education becomes a truly evidence-based field,” great work has already been undertaken to use data to better inform both inputs and outcomes in the classroom.

Education data isn’t going away. If anything, we need to become more savvy in its application to learning. That’s why From Hammer to Flashlight is such an important read.

 

On #EdData, It Is Time to Act

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.

 

 

For Students’ Sake, Let’s Look to Student Data

Over at Education World, I have a new piece that looks at the important role student research and data can play when gathered and utilized properly. From Data Quality Campaign to ACT to NWEA to Project Tomorrow to ERCA, we can see the value data plays, particularly in understanding student perceptions on key issues, including their college and career aspirations.

As I wrote:

For years, we have grappled with the notion of “assessment literacy,” where educators, families, and policymakers can better learn the importance of data collection and the ability to distinguish a valuable data-gathering tool from a lousy one. At the same time, educators have demanded that any student data collected needs to be used to help the student, and not just as the impetus for punitive action.

Teachers are right. We probably don’t focus on what is helpful to the student nearly as often as we should, particularly when it comes to student data. And that’s a cryin’ shame. The student perception information coming from organizations like Project Tomorrow and NWEA is incredibly important. It provides a glimpse at how what is taught in the classroom aligns with student interests and passions. It helps us better understand the path today’s young learners are on as we encourage them toward college and career success.

I hope you’ll give it a read.

 

 

#Studentdata and #highered

We spend so much time talking about the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (or the replacement of NCLB, whichever term you prefer), that we can forget that reauthorization of the Higher Education Act is waiting in the wings as well.

Earlier this spring, Sen. Lamar Alexander, chairman of the Senate HELP Committee, issued a series of white papers on some of the top issues the Senate would consider as it began to dig into HEA reauth. One of those topics was consumer information, what many of us better know as student data.

Last week, I submitted a formal response to the Senate’s higher education student data call. In doing so, I noted: “As a nation, we have long said that information is power, using the call for greater knowledge to rally support for education. But our educational infrastructure itself has not provided the powerful information we need. Higher education has fallen short in its ability to both capture and apply data that can be used to improve how students learn, how they are taught, and how we measure it.”

This should come as no surprise. In talking about the work of the Woodrow Wilson Foundation and its focus on linking student outcome data to determine the effectiveness of its own programs I stated:

All have a right to know the difference between a successful school of education and a not-so-successful one. That difference really can only be revealed through the collection, analysis, and utilization of outcome data. It is not enough to know that future teachers entering schools of education bring a certain high school class rank, GPA, or SAT/ACT score into the process. Yes, the inputs are important. But far more important is what they do with those tools. And we cannot measure that impact based simply on academic performance leading to the award of a college degree. It requires post-graduation data that can be tracked back to the degree-granting institution.

My full statement, including responses to a number of specific queries from Senator Alexander’s staff can be found here. The initial white paper from the Senate HELP Committee on consumer information (and other topics like accreditation) can be found here.