Listening In: Experts Discuss the World of Data-Driven Decision Making

District Administration, May 2006 | Go to article overview

Listening In: Experts Discuss the World of Data-Driven Decision Making


In a recent Web seminar about Data-Driven Decision Making, three experts in the field--Douglas Reeves, CEO and founder of the Center for Performance Assessment; Stephen C. Jones, superintendent of Norfolk (Va.) Public Schools; and Howard Woodard, the chief information officer for the Georgia Department of Education--answered your questions on this topic. Here's a sample of what was covered. (To view the entire presentation, visit www.districtadministration.com/webinars.)

What sort of data does Norfolk gather on a monthly basis and what are the sources of this data?

Stephen Jones: We've aligned our curriculum in such a way that it reflects the standards associated with the assessment component here in Virginia. So with that alignment, those quarterly assessments are designed to replicate what those state assessments are discerning on the part of students when they take those assessments.

For example, we try to have those monthly assessments resemble the standardized tests and format as well as complexity of the questions. We try to build those distracters that are associated with the tests so that they' re close to the answers because we know that those test-taking strategies have to be incorporated into the assessments.

The monthly assessments are most effective when teachers are able to get together as a team to analyze the assessments and the results of the assessments to determine the strengths and the weaknesses of the students.

There is debate about whether teachers should be able to run their own reports or if that task better falls to a data manager. Is there a black-and-white answer?

Stephen Jones: I think with the type of training that we've given our principals and then the training that our teachers have received, and the fact that the technology allows for an immediate turnaround, it should not be a laborious process for teachers. It's a matter of getting the data and then being able to sit and analyze the data in a disaggregated fashion.

Doug Reeves: I really believe that Dr. Jones is on to something important here. Creating all this capacity but then only putting it in the hands of the datameister is never going get ownership at the teacher level.

How have you found the time and training for teachers to learn about data analysis?

Stephen Jones: Well, that's a relatively easy question. I mean time is the one variable that for some reason we try to hold it constant when we talk about student performance but for the adults in terms of staff development and professional development, we try to be as flexible as we can. And we obviously have not been able to spend all of the money that we would like in professional development.

But we've recognized, and our Board of Education has recognized, the importance of this and that's one of the reasons we're utilizing the services of Dr. Reeves and his colleagues. We're very, very liberal in how we allow our teachers and administrators to attend professional conferences that are tied to these kinds of pedagogical questions that we're talking about. I was just reminded that we have early release days that are built into our calendar for professional and staff development. So we find that this is a real investment that pays tremendous dividends.

What should educators be telling their boards in public about data-driven decision making?

Doug Reeves: Norfolk is a good example of leadership in that area. Here's the ethical principle involved. No child you serve is going to be more accountable than the adults. No teacher is going to be more accountable than the administrators. And no administrator is going to be more accountable than the board is. …

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