Tuesday, October 9, 2012

What Are we Measuring in Education?

 Example of a data room

I recently came across the practice having a "data room" in schools.   

These rooms provide teachers and administrators quantitative information (in graphic form) to facilitate "informed" decisions.

I have to admit, the site of the "data room" gave me that "something doesn't feel right" sensation in my stomach.

How has it come to be that, for some, data rooms in school are seen as exemplars in education?

If it's true that we measure what we value - it might be time to examine our values.

Let me be clear - I am not advocating that we make uninformed decisions.  We need good information to make the best decisions for our students.

My concern is that we (teaching professionals, politicians and other stakeholders)  are moving towards considering only certain types of data - usually those that are easy to measure - when we consider the quality of our schools, school systems and the teachers that teach within them.

The real danger is that this "easy to measure data" is driving the type questions we are asking about our schools and the subsequent change initiatives that flow from such questions. 

For example, the dependence on qualitative data usually leads to questions regarding graduation rates, standardized test results, retention rates, attendance rates etc.

While these data sets should not be dismissed - they do not tell the full story of any school system or school and their labeling as a "success or failure".

We should NOT measure only that which is easy to measure.

Perhaps we should also start taking into account  such things as:

  • students' sense of curiosity and wonder
  • students' motivation, engagement and passion  
  • students' sense of joy, happiness and safety 
  • collaboration in schools 
  • students sense of self efficacy

The Role of Leadership
This is where school leadership plays a critical role.  Today, more than ever, school leaders need to be guardians of their school's complete narrative - beyond that which can he displayed in a data room.

What can't be measured and shared quantitatively can be measured and shared qualitatively through meaningful narratives.

School leaders need to use all the tools available to them (including social media) to share that which isn't easily measured but has enduring value nonetheless.

Today's school leaders need to find a balance between measuring and  reporting on both the quantitative and qualitative data that abounds in schools   This is our moral imperative.

1 comment:

  1. Nice post Johnny and something I too have been thinking about lately - measuring the intangibles. Or perhaps a better way of thinking about it is "measuring the heart beat, the pulse, behind the science of the data".

    If we are really focussed on helping students discover their passions, a critical step is encouraging innovative thinking, wh have to collect data that will help us find out what drives student interest:

    When you feel most creative, what are you dong? Where are you?
    What tools or technologies are you using?

    Now we're using data to set the stage for engaging pursuits in schools.

    Data-driven dialogue is purposeful but balance those achievement numbers with the qualitative because without it, that student soul that enables the spirit to move forward and succeed all but disappears.

    Great post - has me working right now on a new post of my own!