Op-Ed Teachers Data

When do Teachers get to “spend” their Data?

If you’re a teacher, you’ve been making extensive deposits into “data banks” for years. You’ve frugally saved student information system data like demographics, attendance, formative and summative assessments, college and career readiness and other crucial indicators. Maybe you’ve meticulously collected and deposited data on your practice. Schools and districts diligently save school-level data such as climate. We’ve even occasionally borrowed some assets such as census data and crime maps.

But none of the data we’ve saved in our numerous “banks” (systems, warehouses, etc.) are accruing us sufficient interest. And we never seem to fully enjoy the opportunity to “spend” our data on issues that improve our practices and move us toward our mission: improved student outcomes.

So, when do we get to make withdrawals and actually “spend” the data we’ve diligently saved? The crucial question is, “How?” Since our data is frequently siloed in a number of disparate “banks” in various currencies (file formats), we often don’t even know the true “balance on our accounts”. What’s our true “data net worth”? Our data is rarely aligned properly, so how would we even use it for decision making and improving our effectiveness?

Further, how can we properly interpret, or “spend”, our data? The U.S. Department of Education surveyed the most data-strong school systems across the nation. Teachers in those districts showed difficulty with question posing, data comprehension, and data interpretation, with teachers correctly interpreting given data in only 48% of instances. Further still, Jenny Grant-Rankin, Ph.D. performed additional studies of randomly selected districts. Her research found educators accurately interpreted data only 11% of the time!

This dilemma is precisely why our firm has dedicated recent years in research and development with a single purpose in mind: To empower data users to improve their effectiveness. Our efforts are focused tools to aggregate, align and visualize all this data in meaningful ways so users can identify “low hanging fruit”- reasonable steps to substantially improve their practice and student outcomes. There are a number of other useful resources, including Dr. Rankin’s Over-the-Counter Data, which provides several free tools.

It’s time we started data spending! But let’s make smart choices – carefully using that precious data for meaningful value so we don’t wake up with an analytics hangover, spender’s remorse and a tattoo with of a linear regression graph on our…

Picture License AttributionNoncommercialNo Derivative Works Some rights reserved by bryanpearson

John Randall Dennis is a strategy executive, consultant and speaker who is passionate about leveraging data and analytics to improve student outcomes and teacher effectiveness. You can connect with Rand via LinkedIn and Twitter.