Data matters, but only if it leads to effective teaching action

Recently, The Hechinger Report published an article that reviewed research showing that data analysis has not significantly improved student outcomes since the No Child Left Behind Act ramped up national data collection. Data — even high quality data— is of no value if it isn’t used effectively. In a response piece, Chris Minnich explains that the strategic response to data is what has been missing. Excerpts of the piece appear below:

Simply gathering evidence of learning, whether through tests or teacher-prompted feedback, is wasted effort if it does not inform the practice of teaching. Does this mean we should eliminate testing or move away from data analysis, as some critics have suggested? No, not exactly.  Data has always been a starting point for education conversations. 

Good data helps teachers see their students’ readiness to learn relative to the curriculum covered in the class. It can help teachers design supports to ensure that all students have access to challenging, grade-level material and to enrichment and acceleration opportunities when they’re ready to advance. Good data also points to research-based evidence about interventions and instructional strategies that have worked elsewhere.

[We need to] provide more resources to teachers, principals and administrators. Specifically, professional learning that provides guidance and coaching, rooted in solid, evidence-based best practices about how to turn data into conversations, decisions and actions that do, in fact, improve student results.

But just adding more professional learning hours alone will not do the trick, just as examining data alone does not improve student outcomes. Professional learning is effective if it ultimately improves how teachers teach and coherently connects curriculum, instruction, and assessment.

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