Communicating the Data Message: Teacher Effectiveness

Sometimes talking about the data implications of education policy can be tricky. In fact, I’ll be honest, trying to explain what I do at DQC to most people causes their eyes to glaze over. Bring up data and people’s minds immediately wander to excel spreadsheets, grad school research papers, and then quickly on to the latest Kardashian scandal, because they so don’t want to be thinking about those other things. Continue reading

Teachers should not have to wing it when it comes to data

I recently got engaged to be married, which is a very exciting time, and also one filled with lots of details and questions to consider. In order to start planning a wedding, and navigating all the conversations and details that entails, I need information fast. The good news is there are hundreds of resources online that provide information on wedding planning inspiration, planning guides, budget tips and more. That wealth of information, unfortunately, is also the bad news. I am, as we commonly say in education, data rich but information poor; overwhelmed by resources but not quite sure how to use them, or which are best to use. Continue reading

Tennessee leads the way in using data to improve the teacher pipeline

Tennessee has done the work to earn DQC’s state Action 9, and is currently one of only six states to have done so. Bravo, Tennessee!

What does that mean, you ask?

Every year, DQC analyzes states’ progress toward supporting effective data use though Data for Action. The survey asks all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia to report on their progress in ensuring effective data use in their state based on our 10 State Actions. While all states are making progress, some of the work takes more investment and policy focus than others. One such piece is Action 9, which reflects states’ ability to implement policies and practices that ensure educators know how to access, analyze, and use data effectively. Continue reading

Stakeholder data use is dependent on stakeholder capacity to access and use data

Those who remember the View-Master from childhood will recall the dazzling images they cast before the user’s eyes. While the image the View-Master presents is vivid and entertaining, it lacks the motion, sound, and character development of a movie. Movies progress over time, and deliver the viewer a complete, 2-hour picture of a series of events, rather than one image at a time. Therein lays the value of state data. District data, like the View-Master, provide a snapshot –not the whole story. State and district data together, along with data quality, security, tools, and analytics, provide stakeholders with a rich picture of student achievement and system performance over time that empowers improved decision making at every level. Continue reading

Trust in data makes or breaks effective policy implementation

As with meeting all education priorities, ensuring that data end up in the hands of the appropriate stakeholders, and that those stakeholders are empowered to use those data to inform their decisionmaking, takes ongoing investment of time, resources, and generally focused, diligent work. At DQC we have a handy catch phrase to describe the key barriers to successfully pursuing this work – “the 4 T’s.” The 4 T’s are Turf, Trust, Time, and Technology Issues. Each describes common roadblocks that policymakers and practitioners at every level must work together to overcome to successfully align data with education policies and their success. In talking to people from various states, they overwhelmingly point to Trust as the most important factor in successfully implementing education priorities in the new reality of a world that focuses on student success from pre-k to the workforce (P-20/W). Continue reading

Money, money, money

Everyone knows it’s important to invest in education. Education is the surefire way to also invest in our prosperity, productivity, health, and security – the whole shebang. That is why, across the country, education represents one of the largest percentages of every state’s budget – because from policymakers to parents, it is understood that providing education opportunities to children in this country is imperative for our success.

One tiny problem: In most states, the state sends money out to the districts to fund education, and then…. then we’re not sure what happens. We know, obviously, that the money gets spent on educating students – great! But we don’t really know how that money is spent, or on which students. Nor do we know if the money we’re spending is aligned with the state’s education priorities. If we want all third graders reading at grade level by the end of each school year, are we spending dollars on the resources that are proven to make that happen? Who knows. Continue reading

Cultivate a culture of stakeholder engagement to improve data

When you were younger – and maybe even still – your parents probably asked you “what do you want for your birthday?” They did this for a few reasons, but primarily to avoid the look of disappointment you would likely have (or the fit you might throw…) when they guessed what you wanted and got it wrong. Your parents wanted to be sure to give you what you want so that you would actually enjoy and use their gift. When we want to be sure that something we are doing will meet the needs of the person we are doing it for, we ask. That principle goes beyond birthdays into our daily lives, our work, and (I hope) you guessed it – data! Continue reading

Better Standards + Better Assessment = Better Data

The Common Core has the power to enrich data-driven decisionmaking at all levels

Implementation of the Common Core State Standards has begun, and new aligned assessments are on the horizon. Nation-wide state departments of education, teachers, principals, superintendents, have been working to ensure that educators are ready to teach based on the new standards. Meanwhile, some nerdy people called psychometricians are preparing by developing quality assessments to measure how our students are learning against the new standards. We are counting on the fact that the new assessments will be of higher quality than the tests states use now, and will therefore have positive implications for the data states use to inform important decisions. Of course, tests SCOREs are just one of many important data points stakeholders at every level use to make decisions, but right now they are a pretty big piece of the data pie.

Because test SCOREs are important data points for many stakeholder decisions, it is good news that these data points will soon be higher quality. While every state continues to work to build quality data systems, Common Core assessments provide the opportunity to improve on some of the data that we already have. Continue reading

Sharing Data—and Conversation—with Teacher Prep Programs to Improve the Teacher Pipeline

Last week, Senator Frist wrote an important op-ed highlighting the need to improve all areas of the teacher pipeline (that is, pathway teachers take from choosing to become teachers to the classroom). He could not be more correct that we must focus “on the start of the teacher pipeline and growing the pool of better-prepared teachers before they enter the classroom.” At DQC we believe that every issue has data implications, and it is our job to show what they are. In that spirit, allow me to tackle the teacher preparation piece of the teacher workforce pipeline.

Just as we say educators need access to their students’ data, teacher preparation programs need access to data on how their graduates perform in the classroom. They can use this feedback data to strengthen their programs and better serve districts, schools, and ultimately students. Currently only six states, including Tennessee, automatically share performance data with their teacher preparation programs, so there is work to do to get more states up to speed—and moving beyond just sharing to using this data to improve. This is why DQC has made sharing teacher performance data back with teacher preparation programs one of our four game changing priorities this year – we believe states can and should do this work this year. Continue reading

The Importance of the Data-Driven Principal

Last week my colleague, Kyle, discussed the importance of leadership in education. (And he may have mentioned something about Peyton Manning too…) I would like to follow suit and focus on the importance of empowering principals with data. I have written quite a few times about how essential it is to put data in the hands of teachers—and the same applies for school leaders. So far, 40 states have provided principals with appropriate access to the data they need, and 39 provide training on how to use it, so we are off to a good start. Continue reading