Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Winning The Data Game

As state assessment data begins to roll out, anxiety from school to school begins to rise.  Principals, teachers, parents, and students are waiting on pins and needles to find out just how good or how bad the flood of data will impact their school or their individual future. The greatest fear of all will be how schools are rated and ultimately labeled. Yes, the release of state assessment data is more about condemnation than affirmation. 

Anthony Muhammad said it best. Data is information, not condemnation, and as leaders we get swept away by the flood of data as it is released by the state, the response will be one of two emotions.  We will jump for joy when our passing rates are high and get giddy when our advanced scores go through the roof. 


When the scores go down or they appear to be average, we tend to overreact because of the pending scrutiny and embarrassment that will follow. 

Data is Condemnation
As leaders we have to remember that how we respond to data condemns ourselves as well as those around us. When we talk about being the best school or our scores are the worst in history, we undermine those we lead if not our leadership altogether. If we fix our eyes on passing percentages or advanced performance, we are perpetuating the false narrative that standardized tests actually are the truest picture of learning. Because in the end when we deem students, teachers, schools, and districts as winners, we are also labeling others as losers. If we believe in all kids, then we must have a new approach to our response to data. 

Data is Information
If we truly believe that state data is information, then we should analyze the data through a new mindset. In other words, we mustn't look at numbers in isolation because a number means absolutely nothing unless it has 2, 3 or even 4 numbers to compare itself to. For data to be informational, it must tell people if student performance is growing, stagnant or declining. Furthermore, it should drive people to avoid the temptation of judgment and guide people to identify the contributing factors that caused the growth or lack thereof. 

Does your Data Condemn or Inform?
The data is in your hands. Will your rhetoric condemn your organization or the other organizations that you are in "competition with"?  Will you tout the fixed mindset of passing and advanced scores?  Will you identify winners and losers, or will you align your rhetoric to the belief that all kids can learn, and we will only gauge our effectiveness as an organzation based on student growth?  

When we fix our eyes on growth, we actually promote the idea of learning for all. We value all teachers. We promote all schools. Winning transitions from a competition into a collaborative effort, and most importantly all kids benefit. The data is the same, and our response is the game. 

1 comment:

  1. Example. A school district is going through major demographic changes. The predominately middle class population (the demographic which tests well) is changing dramatically. There is a large influx of English language learners into the district. This demographic takes our state tests after one year in the school. The state limits funding for these students for 5 years. They will be able to pass the state EL test but not yet have the language skills to decipher either the reading test, or the current generation of math tests which require strong language/reading skills. The state scores decline, but the instructional response of the district is exceptional, as they fight an uphill battle with the state tests. It is so hard for outsiders to see that this district is doing great things and not in decline, which the scores would indicate. We must look deeper than the state tests to see what is going on.