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).
The need for trust takes several forms – cross-sector agencies need to trust one another to develop collaborative relationships; states and districts need to develop relationships based on trust to move towards a culture focused on service of the district; and very importantly, stakeholders need to have trust in data. As data are used increasingly for both high stakes decision, such as teacher evaluation, and daily practice, it is imperative that the end-user has trust in those data. Our fearless leader at DQC, Aimee Rogstad Guidera, recently wrote an op-ed in Education Week, which at its core highlighted the importance of useful, contextual data that fosters the trust and the end-user.
Aimee highlighted an issue that has been a decision point for several states, including Tennessee. You may remember when the LA Times published every LA Unified teachers’ name along with his or her growth SCORE. For many of those teachers, that was the first time they had seen this information. The event caused several states, and likely more to follow, to grapple with whether or not teacher performance should be front page news. At DQC, we applaud Tennessee and other states who have decided to make a statement on appropriate access to data. Publishing growth SCOREs, numbers that can be challenging to understand for even the savviest policywonk, in the newspaper without context gets us nowhere. While parents and the public should have access to data on the state of their schools, no teacher should ever read his or her name in the newspaper and see a growth SCORE next to it. It demolishes teacher trust in those data. Educator trust and attitudes about data have been shown to be a vital component of effective use of data in the classroom to inform decisionmaking and impact student achievement.
Why would we ever want to risk that?