- The Experiential Illiterates - February 13, 2014
- Fordham and Hess Temporarily Acknowledge that Reformers Can't Have it Both Ways - January 23, 2014
- Disproportionate Evaluative Rigor and The Three Laws of Data - January 14, 2014
- Teaching: The Card Game - January 10, 2014
- The Tyranny of the Datum - January 6, 2014
- Ed Reform's Atari Problem - January 4, 2014
- Five New Years Resolutions for Public Education Supporters - December 31, 2013
- The Wizards of Ed- The Conundrum of Education - December 30, 2013
- The Exhaustion of the American Teacher - December 26, 2013
- Education, Circa 2038 - December 12, 2013
Data is a big deal. A great deal of innovation is happening right now in the field of data collection, storage, and management in the field of education. There are some well-documented fears among parents and teachers regarding these trends. Who will control the data? How will the data be used? Will my child’s data be protected? The worst-case scenarios–data misuse, hacking, data misrepresentation, a great sabotage of American schools–are downright terrifying.
Some education watchers and commenters, meanwhile, are enthusiastic supporters of a more data-informed future in our schools. They note the promise of more effective daily practice informed by accurate and timely information about student performance–more data than ever before is available, as are technological tools far more powerful than ever before, placed in the hands of educators. The best-case scenarios–individualized highly-effective remediation, personalized educational experiences, de-tracking and de-grading students, a great flourishing in American schools–are dizzying in their hopeful promise.
There is a great deal of conversation that occurs online about the various particulars surrounding educational data. Like much educational discourse in social media, it is fascinating, if occasionally (or often) strident.
It goes without saying that data is not inherently a bad thing. In fact, human history is decorated with moments wherein men and women made astounding discoveries on the basis of their analysis of extant data. From Madame Curie to Einstein to George Washington Carver–and outside of science too, in worlds as diverse as music and gastronomy and exploration–the greats have always relied on information they had access to when making their discoveries. Data is the raw material for effective decision-making. If you know there is an iceberg ahead soon enough, the Titanic doesn’t sink.
Data should indeed inform decisions. And, indeed, educators need data at their fingertips.
But data should come with some serious warnings, and we’ve seen just how bad things can get in education. The way I see it, there are at least 4 major dangers when it comes to data.
1. While data (plural) should inform, each datum wants to rule alone. In an America that is uncomfortable with nuance, we have two dominant political parties, two dominant soda brands, and so on. We like to reduce things to manageable-if-extremely-imprecise chunks. As such, a single datum such as a Standardized Test Score–like the ring in The Lord of the Rings–invariably wants to take over. Data-informed quickly gives way to data-driven, and then data-driven gives way to datum-blinded. And that is, in my opinion at least, where we live today.
Click here for danger number two.