Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Who needs data?
Next week, I'll be flying to Denver to present Phoenix's story along with our new principal and the director and supervisor of Professional Development for the district. We 4 will be telling our story at the National Staff Development Council's annual conference.
In looking at the session descriptions when registering a few months ago, I was struck by the lack of variety. With perhaps 4 (and that could be pushing it) exceptions, every breakout and keynote session is centered around data and the amazing things different districts, schools, departments and teachers have done with it. Data, I've realized, is the Silly Putty or Little Black Dress of education.
Our presentation will not be about data. It will include data. To be sure, data has its place in the structure of success at Phoenix. We use it to inform our instruction. We use it calculate projected success on the FCAT. We use it to understand "academic needs."
Data will not drive our presentation. It does not drive our school. I should clarify my use of the term "data" here is meant in its clinical sense.
What drives our school and will, in turn, drive our presentation are relationships.
Formative and summative, high-stakes, formal and informal - assessments in the hands of teachers will not decide the success or failure of that teacher's students in the academic year.
Relationships are key.
As such, our presentation will reflect this.
Here's the funny thing. As I write this, there's a tinge of wonkiness at the thought of the heresy of downplaying the importance of data. My first experience with PD as a professional teacher were on things like data walls and the drafting of common assessment meant to synthesize the state assessment. My indoctrination started early.
Let me put the argument to you another way: Do you want teachers who know data or teachers who know kids?
"This is Mr. Chase, he can compile interpret a great Data Wall." vs. "This is Mr. Chase, he finds ways to reach and motivate some otherwise lost students."
I know my argument has holes. Poke at them. Push this. Push me to think. Anyone?
Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pixieclipx/414065100/