This afternoon in Washington, DC, people who are instrumental to the conversations around education reform in this country—including U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Michelle Rhee, Tennessee’s own Governor Phil Bredesen, and neighboring Kentucky Education Commissioner, Terry Holliday—will gather to talk about the imperative of implementing and using data effectively to change student learning for the better. I am referring to the Data Quality Campaign’s “Day of Data,” during which we highlight the annual progress of the states in implementing longitudinal data systems to improve student learning and set the agenda for the coming year.
You may have noted in my title my reference to “sparkly people”—this in no way has anything to do with the Twilight saga. Sparkly people, like Duncan, Rhee, Bredesen, and Holliday are those who get people’s attention; they galvanize people—move them to action, to excitement, perhaps even to anger. No matter the emotional response you’re likely to take note of what these people say, which is why we at DQC are especially excited when figures like these want to talk about the value—and the excitement—of data. And while we love galvanizers to tout the values of longitudinal data systems, dashboards, and interoperability, they are not the only ones who make good champions of data. You, my friend, can and should be a data champion.
I have written a few times about the value of role-based access to data. Today I want to emphasize the importance of role-based advocacy for data. In short, everyone has a role in demanding better data. If you’re a parent, demand it from your school. Schools should demand data from the district, the district from the state. Everyone should be demanding that legislators maintain a commitment to improving student learning in the state, and a key piece of that is having quality, actionable,“ I can actually use this stuff!” data. At DQC we are always trying to instill into policymakers the pricelessness of data as they continue to pursue work around improving education. I challenge you to reach out to your legislators and governor and encourage them to maintain a focus on using data effectively to improve student learning—and thereby become sparkly data people themselves! These days anyone can be part of the changing conversations around data and education in their state, and the country as a whole. You don’t have to be sparkly—just willing to nag, ask questions, push back, and beg for more—to help effect change. Of course, the more you do that, the more people will pay attention . . . and eventually you might just be sparkly too!
Just like these people from TIME’s 12 for ’12 list, as seen in the SCORE news clips from January 13, who have now all been cemented as sparkly people. I happen to be partial to number six.