Excerpt from the book Assessing the Educational Data Movement to be published in April, 2013
One of the issues to emerge in policy discourse and from funders as the educational data movement was taking hold involved personalized learning. While education has seen pendulum swings around standardization versus personalization for decades, what is new is the idea of using data and information to drive individual attention to student needs. While other fields are routinely using datasets about specific customers, and others like those customers, to present more relevant options and services, the classical model is still largely focused on providing the same options to students irrespective of what information about those students might suggest. What has been done in other fields is to use data about individuals to help segment and divide a large market into smaller groups to which services can be targeted. Of course, students within a classroom and teachers within a school are already part of a small group. It is possible that there are others like those students or those teachers in different locations that that data can provide some opportunities to see what types of approaches and tools work well with different students and teachers that have similar characteristics. (more…)Leave a comment
This is an extract from one of the chapters of my upcoming book titled: The Educational Data Movement: Crossing Boundaries, Searching for Student Success.
One of the greatest challenges of our time—of research, of school leadership, and now of measurement—is to define teaching or what teaching should be. The educational data movement occurs at time when there is great uncertainty about what it means to teach. The types of changes that education is going through, as other fields have before, impact jobs and roles and organizational structures. During this time, there has been a quest to describe the job of teachers in ways that can be used to compare teaching with other types of professions. The definition of teaching is an important factor in how we consider teachers using data in their jobs. Is their work mechanical to transmit knowledge or are they knowledge workers and knowledge creators? These are the kinds of questions that highlight what makes education different from other fields. (more…)
Big data is a new term that can imply both new forms data and new analytic techniques. While big data is routine for many businesses and some sciences, it is new to education. Two characteristics of big data (in addition to lots of data) are that different kinds of information – some more structured than others – are used together and that the data focus is developing deep understandings of systems and context rather than only on outcomes. Organizations that leverage big data are often able to understand those they serve, and their environment better; to isolate and focus on their external and internal challenges and monitor their efforts. In American education, there is hope that big data tools can be a lever for change. (more…)Leave a comment
In recent months there has been increasing attention to the need for education technologists who can focus on the many large and not so large datasets that are proliferating in education. Some have called for exploration into the educational data sciences and asked about how to prepare this new type of professional. Many questions are emerging about this important area. What classes should they take? Can this be a college major or should it be a professional certification? How is this different from educational statistics? (more…)Leave a comment
Why should regular educational researchers, those working with science or social studies or emerging literacy pay attention to the changes in education around data. I can think of three reasons. (more…)Leave a comment
On May 17, 2012, political science professor Patrick McGuinn posted a paper titled: Fight Club Are advocacy organizations changing the politics of education? where he discussed a network of education reform advocacy organizations (ERAOs) that regularly meet to plan strategy for advancing their agendas that includes charter schools, alternative teacher preparation, and an emphasis on test scores. It is a fascinating account of a network of organizations that many people know little or nothing about and yet have been busy over the last several years with ambitious and in some ways aggressive advocacy. (more…)Leave a comment
Data can be powerful. It provides analysts and businesses with insights into patterns and behaviors that mere intuition rarely can. It holds tremendous potential for education as well. At the same time, data can have personal and private information. The new tools flooding the market now. Care should be taken with data that relates to children or even those who work in schools is concerned. (more…)Leave a comment
The KIPP Character Report Card involves a set of metrics developed by KIPP for use in tracking their students. In 2005 Dave Levin, one of KIPP’s co-founders, began to look seriously at issues of student character. KIPP had always stressed both academics, including test performance, and personal traits such as empathy and determination. (more…)Leave a comment
The recent release of Teacher Data Reports (TDR) in New York City made the problems with evaluations based on tests scores visible for many people. The idea of evaluating teachers based on how well their students do is a simple and wonderful idea. Using a statistical model that can factor in the student’s background and what they might be expected to learn – the value-added model (VAM) – is a great even better. The problem is while these are great ideas, the data that come from them often stinks. It isn’t always awful, but almost always imprecise and in some cases as the teacher who teaches English Language Learners (ELLs) in New York who was recently ranked at the bottom because the students she served were unable to score well on the tests for reasons outside of her control, the problems are grave. The TDR debacle has no doubt given many proponents of VAMs some second thoughts.
In a recent post, Chris Tessone with the slightly right-of-center Thomas B. Fordham Institute suggested MBA types working in school systems (supported by large foundations) should give up on that lost cause because the cultural and organizational issues are too deep and difficult. Instead, he argues, they should put all of their energy into charter schools. My response is twofold: 1) it is too soon to tell, and 2) that contrasting businesses and schools as vastly different without exploring how and why they are different (hint: profitability isn’t key) doesn’t help the discussion. (more…)Leave a comment