If you had asked me about standardized tests 5 years ago, I would have vehemently dismissed them as the wrong direction for education. While I still resist the Fitbit model of constant quantification of progress and self, this week I heard and read about compelling ways that data can be used to build professional cultures, see and support individuals, and the design of better systems.
One of the sessions at the Carnegie Summit that I attended was a panel on Doctoral programs that embed improvement science into their curriculum, including the program at UCLA with Dr. Louis Gomez, whom we heard from a few weeks ago. He said two things that struck me. First, in working on problems the same way, you build organizational culture. This is echoed in Halverson (2010) “Over time, teacher concerns about teacher evaluation seemed to ease as the principal made a significant time commitment to help teachers make sense of the MAP data reports in terms of math instruction. The Walker principal used MAP data in faculty and staff meetings to create a common vocabulary for Walker teachers to discuss student learning.” (p. 141) To me, this is what data can do for schools when it is approached from a mindset of possibility rather than fear. Further, I heard more than one person at the conference remark that using data was allowing their teachers to have conversations about instruction never possible before. As Halverson quotes of the Malcolm school leaders, “The beauty of data is that we can have these conversations” (p.144). Second, Dr. Gomez stated that improvement leadership is social justice leadership, precisely because it builds common culture focused on improvement for all kids. It changes the system to yield better outcomes rather than treating the symptoms of a system that doesn’t work.