Making Data-Informed Decisions…About Us…
Hello Educators. I hope you and yours remain well. I want you to know that it continues to be a pleasure and privilege to engage with you each week, particularly during our current times. If you find the postings helpful in addressing the ongoing challenges you face, be sure to share the blog with anyone that you believe would benefit from this conversation.
Over the past week, I moderated a final webinar in a 5-part series entitled: SEL as a Lever for Equity: Policy & Data Practices that Dismantle Inequities. I had an amazing colleague of mine on the webinar, in addition to two dynamic leaders from Minneapolis Public Schools who helped to elevate the opportunities that exist within the pulling, the analyzing, and the eventual use of data to illuminate and dismantle the issues of justice that dominate our educational system. This is certainly a webinar that will push you to think about data differently and if you are not typically the one engaging with data in your educational sphere, this may support your understanding of how your role coincides with data.
One of the most salient points that I am continuing to ponder from and after the webinar was the idea that data provides layers of information and often, we start and stop at the first layer and begin to put policy and practices in place that only support what we notice at first glance. For example, at first glance, we might see that a group of students has made minimal gains in literacy so the response might be to double down on remediation or extend literacy blocks. Another example might be that there was an increase in fights so the school decides to adopt a conflict resolution program with a deep dosage of anger management and emotion regulation. You might wonder…well, what’s wrong with responding to the apparent need seen in the data? Nothing is particularly wrong with the response but what is problematic is the process that leads to the decision that this was the appropriate response.
In education, we continue to treat students as the primary and sometimes sole variable that requires manipulation. We ask students to shoulder all of the deficits seen in the data and many of our conclusions fall short of holding adults and the systems that students are subject to, accountable for any aspect of the data. A student who is unable to concentrate in class due to bullying and inadequate supportive adult relationships will likely not increase literacy scores simply because the block was extended. Students who feel adults have minimal expectations for their success in life may not increase engagement and persevere through the demands of rigorous content simply because we’ve decided to focus on productive struggle this year. Data is an opportunity for everyone to ask questions like…
What do these data say about the role that I’ve played?
What do they say about the culture we’ve created in this building for our students?
What do they illuminate about the needs that our students have that we may not be addressing adequately?
What do these data leave unanswered that we should try to figure out before we move into decision-making?
The reality is that every piece of data should reinforce our connectedness rather than solely highlight isolated problems or concerns.
It is easier to deal with concerns as separate entities but if we are looking for true resolution, it behooves us to include ourselves, our mindsets, and the systems we create and uphold in the analysis of the challenge and in our response. I read a recent article where the author, Jeff Krasno stated, that if we are willing to sacrifice convenience and ease, we can move into a greater space of connectedness. It is the acceptance of our connectedness that supports us in holding the entire system accountable for the change that we require in education as we review data throughout the year but particularly during the summer in preparation for the reopening of schools.
I continue to believe that this moment in time is an opportunity for us to be different, engage differently, and expect differently. This perspective should impact every aspect and allowing data to be a part of the change creates an avenue to begin to address root causes rather than secondary symptoms.
In Solidarity and Love,