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.

So if you’re a state policymaker and you need to find a way to make the vital connections between your policy goals and data clear and unboring, you could use some help. The power of communicating is a too often overlooked piece of policy success, yet getting the words right is paramount to getting the work right. It is important that state leaders spend time and effort proactively and consistently communicating about their policy goals – and of course why data are important to meeting them. Effective communication helps prevent mistrust and confusion, allows leaders to be proactive and own the conversation, and provides stakeholders with a common language with which to discuss sometimes tricky issues.

Likely, no issue has been more frequently discussed in the education policy world – or in Tennessee – lately than the importance of teacher effectiveness. Tennessee has done a great job making educators aware of changes to teacher effectiveness policies, and gathering and listening to their feedback. But teacher effectiveness, and the data required to implement those policies can be difficult to discuss. That’s why we’ve put together five key advocacy points that can help you proactively communicate the value of teacher effectiveness data to peers and the public.

  • Data help teachers help students. Data are most powerful in the hands of teachers. Having access to information about their students’ performance informs teachers’ professional judgment, which allows them to tailor instruction to better serve students’ diverse needs.
  • Teacher effectiveness data provide our state and districts about the most important classroom factor – teachers. Teacher performance data such as those derived from growth SCOREs (or other measures such as Tennessee Value Added Assessment System) provide a unique picture of educator effectiveness that is helpful to school, district, and state leaders in their effort to prepare, recruit, hire, and equitably distribute teachers.
  • Teacher effectiveness data allow teachers to reflect on their own practice. When teachers have access to their own performance data, they have an opportunity to unpack their teaching, identify strengths and challenges, and guide their own professional development.
  • Data on teacher performance are about more than test SCOREs. Linking teachers and students is about more than just test SCORE. Those links also include contextual data about teachers and students, such as preparation, professional development, past performance, student outcome measures, and inputs like demographics.
  • The state is best positioned to link data and develop performance measures. The state can reduce burden on districts by ensuring high-quality links between teachers and students and by developing and implementing certain teacher effectiveness measures, such as growth or value-added models. Doing his work at the state level provides a clean, comparable, statewide picture to better develop, implement, and evaluate state policies.

These advocacy points will get you started, but they definitely do not encompass the entire teacher effectiveness conversation – a conversation that will continue to evolve and grow over time. The best thing to do is be proactive, think through the major issues you’re tackling in Tennessee, and get out key messages in a timely way.

For more information about how to communicate around teacher effectiveness, and other policy goals, check out DQC’s new Tools for Communicating the Data Message.