Why Data?

Since starting this position, I have had the privilege of being a member on the SLDS State Support Team Data Use Standards Working Group.  It is a team focused around creating standards for the knowledge, skills, and professional behaviors needed for effective data utilization.  This past July, we came out with Version II of the standards and also a companion deliverable, Standards in Practice.  I’m proud to say North Dakota is featured as a case study using the A+ Inquiry framework tied to the Data Use Standards.

Being a part of national working groups around data utilization is valuable in many facets – networking, sharing resources, creating visions, and also celebrating successes.  A team member from New Hampshire sent an email to us all this week sharing a video they have created to illuminate their answers to “Why Data?”  I recommend viewing during this busy, hustle holiday week as it will remind you the number one goal for all data use is always the positive impact on students.  Always.


Assessment Literacy

If you have been following me for any period of time, you know I am passionate about the need for developing a data mindset FIRST to then have the capacity to use educational data in an effective manner.  In other words, I believe there is a need for increased assessment literacy.

I’m excited to announce I was invited to join the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) National Task Force on Assessment Education and Literacy for Teachers.  The Task Force invited thought leaders from around the country to join together to work on the development of best practices and programs for assessment education – both in colleges of education, national education organizations, and in K12 school districts.  Half of the Task Force members represent pre-service expertise and the other half represent in-service experience.  NWEA convened this Task Force because they believe that the key to improving assessment use and understanding is to provide clear support and best practices in both teacher education programs as well as through In-Service professional learning in K12 school districts.  Since teachers are the lead communicator to both students and parents about assessment, it is critically important to provide them with the right preparation and support to understand and use assessments in support of learning.

As part of the work, NWEA has created an invaluable resource – check it out!  Their approach aligns directly with my philosophy of using the A+ Inquiry framework to guide the development of a data mindset.


Positive Slope

Last week, Dr. Nathan Anderson and I presented at the ND AdvancED/Learning Forward conference.  Our main focus was to give districts hands-on, practical strategies for tackling the Student Performance Diagnostic.  We kept our focus to the Top 3 Things to Consider:

  • Data Document
  • Evaluative Criteria
  • Diagnostic Questions

Districts are required to complete all three pieces; the diagnostic questions address areas of notable achievement and areas in need of improvement.  Prior to last spring, the data was available in the SLDS but required much external analyzing.  Because of this, Dr. Anderson created a spreadsheet method of accessing and analyzing the needed data from the SLDS.  It provides customization and is a testament to Nathan’s desire to help schools.  After the SLDS team reviewed the spreadsheet method and many discussions were had, new reports were made available directly on the SLDS titled District AdvancED and School AdvancED.  They tackle the twelve questions directly.

During our presentation, Nathan and I stressed the advantages and disadvantages to each method as nothing is an all inclusive fitting glove.  Each district needs to look at their reality and decide which route makes the most sense for them, whether that is the spreadsheet method created by Nathan, the reports available on the SLDS, or some other method created by an in-house person.  AdvancED exists to improve schools and the only thing that will truly make the improvement occur are the conversations that lead to decisions, not simply the entering the numbers and/or printing of reports.

With that, Nathan and I both feel passionate about data utilization and often joke we are very opposite minded people with the same vision.  In our presentation, I made reference to the spreadsheet being Nathan’s brain and the Data Utopia slide being mine.  We both have a positive slope and we both want what is best for North Dakota students, teachers, and districts.


Ready, Set, GO

School is in full swing.  The first day jitters have hopefully worn off and all administrators, teachers, students, and support staff are settling in for what, no doubt, will be a wild ride of a year.  It always is a ride in education – wild and never boring.  It’s unpredictable and hard while it pushes you to your limits.  But that’s what makes it the best career in the world at the same time.  Only the things which really matter can make you feel like you’ve conquered the world to then have your face pushed in the sand the next day.  And teaching is one of those things.  No doubt.

We all go into education because of the kids, this I know must be true.  No one goes into this game without a love for children and a reverent want to make a real difference.  It’s easy to remember this when you have twenty-four fourth graders in front of you every single day.  You know their favorite teams and you know when their birthdays are and you know what makes them scared and you know what makes them soar.  You remember every single day.  This career is about the brown, blue, green, hazel, gray eyes sitting across the room from you, looking to you to be their number one for an entire school year.

Kudos to you classroom teachers.  You are the ones who get the privilege of being the person the kids consider to be theirs. Please don’t forget the power that holds.

I think it becomes harder to remember we do everything we do in education for the students once you step out of a classroom.  You aren’t dealing with Kleenex crises, constant pencil sharpening, and tears from not understanding long division.  You are instead dealing with scheduling, staffing, parent communication, school board communication, bus routes, policy making, policy following, policy supporting, etc…  The list goes on and on of the logistics taking place behind the scenes to allow the teachers to sit across from the students and use their gifts to create learning.  It gets tricky to keep everything flowing smoothly and everyone safe and it’s not easy.  It’s not easy in different ways than reminding for the twelfth time in an hour we sit in chairs, we don’t rock back in them.

But, amidst that different kind of chaos, the behind the scenes folks must also remember it always, always goes back to those brown, blue, green, hazel, gray eyes sitting in those wooden or metal desks looking to their teacher to love them for this school year.  It has to go back to them because they are the number one reason we are all in this.

And we are all in it together.

Students, learn on.

Teachers, teach on.

Principals, lead on.

Superintendents, big lead on.

School Boards, make decisions on.

State Agencies, guide on.

Support Staff, support on.

Cheers to another year kicking off and may it be the best one yet.


American Evaluation Association Connection

I recently had the pleasure of collaborating with a colleague, Nathan Anderson – Data Management Specialist for Mid-Dakota Education Cooperative, to write a submission for the American Evaluation Association’s 365 blog feature.

Our post is centered around developing your data mindset, particularly on transforming data frustration to data utopia.

Please check it out here; it’s exciting to have our work be showcased on a national level.


Differentiation Does, In Fact, Work

If you read nothing else today, please read the response written by Carol Ann Tomlinson for Education Weekly around the topic of differentiation in the classroom.

It is an absolute must read by all in this great profession.