Today’s educators are regularly reminded of the need for data to justify their professional role in society. Many of us cringe as we hear people who have never spent a day in the classroom, repeat the battle cry for more data and the need to link data to annual staff appraisals. We think, “More Data? My students have four full days of state standardized testing this year. How can we fit in any more standardized testing? Impossible!” We strain to explain to those outside education the inaccuracy of linking teacher performance to student achievement on these high stakes tests, but with little success. Yes, “data” has become a confusing and scary word in education, however it is still important we don’t fear the data. Data shouldn’t always refer to standardized testing results. No Child Left Behind has successfully created a need for one standardized test after another. But, it has also stripped educators of their ability to develop measures of accountability that can be specific to one student, a classroom, a department, a school and even an entire school district. We need to view standardized test results as data, but realize it is only one data set of many which we can use to develop measures of accountability. Educators at all levels can develop goals based on student, classroom, school, and district needs and track their progress towards meeting such goals by using data which fall outside the realm of standardized testing. Educators should embrace the opportunity to individualize themselves as professionals while also taking the lead in developing their own appraisals. Imagine explaining to your superior, “I was able to decrease the school’s absentee rates by 15% through the newly implemented perfect weekly attendance recognition program,” or “In October, 28% of my students could correctly complete their multiplication tables, two months later 87% can.” The following steps can be used to help educators use data as a friend: 1) Conduct a needs assessment. You probably already know some areas you’d like to improve, but now collect this information to develop your baseline data. 2) Develop goals based on your baseline data. For example: Increase vocabulary test scores. 3) Develop a plan and a timeline. What will you do? How will you do it? How long will it take you to do it? 4) Implement your plan. 5) Conduct regular assessments of your progress. This will help you tweak your plan if needed. 6) Collect your comparative data and analyze the data. 7) Communicate your success to your boss, co-workers, parents, ect. It’s ok to brag! Data should not always reference standardized testing results. We can use data as an ally to demonstrate the effects of our efforts on our students regularly. Yes, it takes a little extra effort, but it allows us to remain goal oriented within our professional routine and produce valuable information for all who enjoy measuring our professional abilities! So, as this school year begins, remember don’t fear the data!
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