Simon Rodberg, who is the founding principal of the District of Columbia International School, wrote an insightful piece in Harvard Business Review entitled “Data Was Supposed to Fix the U.S. Education System, Here’s Why It Hasn’t.”
The cure is worse than the disease:
The big numbers are necessary, but the more they proliferate, the less value they add. Data-based answers lead to further data-based questions, testing, and analysis; and the psychology of leaders and policymakers means that the hunt for data gets in the way of actual learning. The drive for data responded to a real problem in education, but bad thinking about testing and data use has made the data cure worse than the disease.
Missing the forest through the trees.
We’ve slid from a reasonable, necessary, straightforward question — are the students learning? — to the current state of education leadership: where school leaders and policy-makers expect too much of data, over-test student learning to the detriment of learning itself, and get lost in their abundance of numbers.
What we’ve really learned from “data-driven reform.”
We wanted data to help us get past the problem of too many students learning too little, but it turns out that data is an insufficient, even misleading answer. It’s possible that all we’ve learned from our hyper-focus on data is that better instruction won’t come from more detailed information, but from changing what people do. That’s what data-driven reform is meant for, of course: convincing teachers of the need to change and focusing where they need to change.
Don’t try to turn teachers into data analysts; try, instead, to help them be better teachers.
Read the whole piece.