Tuesday, March 22, 2016

A Reader Asks... So Why are We Collecting Data

A recently relocated LYS Teacher asks the following:


"Are we (the campus) using data to help our students improve or are you (leadership) using students to gather more data for your use?”

Here’s the background to the above question (which I was “smart” enough to say out loud). In a planning meeting with leadership, I suggested that we only select no more than 30 questions for the full length STAAR PRACTICE test we’re about to administer.  After all 30 questions are all that the state is asking this year.

I explained that this would give students a real feel for the work time they will have on the actual STAAR.  Then we could talk to students about their use of the time, including the need to write a rough draft and edit their essays. Better for them to figure that out now than run out of time on test day.

I was quickly shot down. The principal said we needed to give the full release (one more passage to read and twelve more questions to answer) to "get more data."

I pointed out that we do 3-week common assessments and I know exactly where my students are, right now. A new longer test wasn’t going to change that.

His response, “The practice STAAR test isn't about the students getting a feel for the test, it’s about getting good data.”

I get it, I lost the argument. But am I thinking in the right direction or have I completely missed the boat.  Don’t worry, I won’t use your answer with my principal. But I would appreciate your feedback.

SC Response
The more I read your starting statement, the less sure I am about what it is asking.

I think you are asking this

1. Do we collect data to make adjustments and interventions that we hope will make students more successful?


2. Do we collect data to highlight how things improve when I’m in charge?

In theory, either reason should lead to improved student outcomes.  However, in the real world, Reason 2 usually leads to adult trickery. From game playing to measuring things that really don’t matter to outright cheating. Kids be damned.

Now on to the rest of your letter.

1. You are correct in the belief that if your common assessments are aligned to the rigor and pace of the curriculum, then you have all the data you need.  A big benchmark simply steals instructional time at the time of year when the effective and efficient use of instructional time is most critical.

2. The most polite thing I can say about your principal is that he is misguided.

My advice, smile, teach you students, play his game and look for a more enlightened principal to work with.

Think. Work. Achieve.
Your turn...

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