Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Teachers Empower Data: Data Are Meaningless until Teachers Add Their Expertise

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Teachers Empower Data: Data Are Meaningless until Teachers Add Their Expertise

Article excerpt

As a self-described data geek, I never quite understood teachers who resisted using data to drive improvement in student achievement. As a teacher, I couldn't wait to get standardized test results back--to grab my highlighter, to see who made it over the benchmark target, and to calculate improvement. However, not everyone shared my love for data. Not only did some not like data, but they would get angry about data. Tears were shed over data.

So guess what I did to better use data to improve teaching and learning? I collected data! I interviewed teams of teachers; I had to understand both sides of the passionate debate--my love and their hate.

The voice

Thirteen primary grade teachers from four teams in three different states shared their voices for my study. All of the teachers participated in some kind of formal data-driven, decision-making process: data teams, professional learning communities, or RTI problem solving.

The pros

Teachers had positive feelings and saw benefits of data.

"I feel more on top of what I'm doing. I feel more confident. I feel like a better instructor."

"Data helps us stay focused as a team. We have the same goals."

"I started out by showing my scores from fall to winter and their reaction was 'Yeah! Good for you!' And I felt good about that."

"The kids seeing the posted data was a very encouraging thing. The kids were encouraging each other. They were tutoring each other. They were helping each other. It was a very good motivational tool."

The potential benefits identified by these teachers are overwhelming. It almost sounds like a silver bullet. But there's a catch.

The cons

Teachers also expressed negative experiences and feelings toward data.

"I personally can get frustrated sometimes taking the time to collect data just for the sake of data."

"I thought, I know this stuff. I know what they need to know. I know what I need to do. So why in the world do I have to go through all this fuss? We have to do all this paperwork. …

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