Saturday, September 15, 2012

I Love My Data

I guess I've always loved data and been a little empowered by its analysis. 
Long before "data" management was the trendy topic it is today, I tracked of my students' reading levels and test scores in an old "graphing" notebook. The columns allowed me to readily see the data and I found it fascinating that early reading support could empower many children to be successful readers throughout their elementary school days. Later, I kept lists on computer floppy disks and numerous hard drives even though no administrator ever wanted to see.   I felt "empowered" by students' increasingly stronger scores. I have data going back to the '80s for students who are now parents of students themselves! 

I became a fan of Excel spreadsheets for data management during my dissertation research and realized that data could REALLY talk to you if you REALLY looked at it RECURSIVELY with powerful spreadsheets.  Maybe it's the residual "nerd" in me, but I get excited when lists and data "talk" to me. 

On a beautiful Friday afternoon as people were clearing out for a four day weekend after a week that included powerful stressors such as "open house" night and fall assessments, I found myself empowered once again by data.  The numbers started to "talk"  so I  summarized and sent it to a few colleagues and my administrative team.  Then I sprinted down the stairs to the copier (I was more excited than tired at that moment( as I was pretty sure it would be "free"!

"What are you still doing here," the principal asked. 
"Finishing some data analysis," I eagerly volunteered.
I think he might just "get" the power of data because he smiled as I suggested what this data might just do for our school and more importantly for our future students. 

I do worry that the pendulum has moved towards TOO MUCH testing for kids and teachers.  Teachers need to love kids (the good, the bad, the smart, the less smart, the quirky, the surly and the strange ones too) and they need to provide multiple, masterful theatrical filled lessons each day to assure engagement; however, they also need data to be sure their teaching is translating to learning.

However, the reminder to me this morning is that when we analyze formative and summative data, we can be empowered to improve teaching and learning as we explore new materials and methods.   

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