Upstream, Downstream: How Schools Districts Should Think about Data

Most school district data regimes are focused on collecting information from the classroom and “funneling it up”: providing statistics to management-level decision-makers.   One challenge of the coming decade(s) will be to learn how to “funnel down” our data: to make it accessible, and meaningful, in real-time, to our teachers and students.

Wireless Generation (disclosure: an organization where I have sought employment), which designs hand-held devices that can instantaneously analyze student work, and provide feedback to educators, is therefore one my favorite ed tech companies.  But the kind of thinking they epitomize is hardly ascendant in most school districts.  I recently met with a high-ranking official in a New Jersey school district and was surprised to find that she had not ever considered the idea of channeling detailed, data-derived information to teachers on a regular basis.  She understood that data richer than test scores could potentially be gleaned from classrooms but saw this first as an asset to management, rather than an asset to teachers.

The fact is that we don’t respect our teachers enough to think of them as data users and analyzers.  Of course, it’s true that we will have to tailor the presentation of information to the needs of those not accustomed to evaluating classroom data but the challenge there belongs to management: to provide training and to work with developers to create friendly and accessible interfaces.

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