Google+ Badge

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Making Schools Better: The Desire for Holistic Metrics

At the Intersection Event at Googleplex many years ago, a man sat next to me during the presentations and lunch and spoke to me about his desire to create more holistic metrics for teaching/learning success. At the time, my State and school community were just beginning to use data in deeper ways mainly with respect to standardized tests. At the school level, we were just beginning to look at data charts with greater scrutiny and use those charts to determine some of the work we do.

Since that time, I do think that data, in part, has helped us to meet the needs of students better. I like the way we use data to target teaching for small groups of students for finite periods of time in order to move those students' basic skills in math and reading forward. This, overall, has been positive and we've seen students' reading and math skills grow. As I've stated many times, in year's past, at the intermediate grades of fourth and fifth, we would have a number of students who were not reading near or at grade level and now those numbers are few to none thanks to the data driven work and response in this regard.

Now, however, I want us to go deeper and broader with the data--I want what that man a long time ago was discussing which is more holistic measures of student achievement and success. I want our teams to begin collecting and looking at data with a deeper lens of what works and what doesn't. I want us to be able to see an honest long view of a student or students' profiles that demonstrate trends, connections, strengths, and challenges, and I want us to look at this data without finger pointing or disregard for educators and leaders, but instead with promise for better work and effort.

Essentially, as we teach the whole child, where are we impacting this child with strength and where do we need to work differently? Or at what point did this child's overall program soar and where do we see it diminish with respect to attitude, self esteem, basic skills, project work? Where do our programs help students to move forward with strength and when do our programs limit a child's forward movement? Do we teach some children, groups, genders, cultures better and some less so, and if so, why?

I guess as I think of all these questions and the desire for more holistic metrics, I am feeling like an island, one who is separated from the deep data, long term view, and honest appraisal of what works and what doesn't. I am wondering how systems keep their teams in the loop of this knowledge with respect and a forward vision? I am wondering if there's a reason why some are in the know and others not, or could it be that no one really can answer most of these questions due to the limitations of data, collaboration, time, or communication?

Who are we? What do we do well? Where are our goals? What kind of progress are we making on these goals? What's working really well? What's not working so well? How does your role contribute to the overall system goals and students' holistic learning?

I guess in a sense, I'm ready for a "State of the Union" or "State" or "System" summary--this is where we are, what we're doing, when we're hitting the mark, and the work that we need to do? That kind of broad and deep report helps people like me shore up the work I do, contribute to the team, and work smarter and better for the children I serve.

Yet, I know some don't desire or require this. As I spoke to a colleague from another system today I realized that she is satisfied with where she's at and what she knows. She's not looking at the school day with her eyes on making it better, but instead she's working with her focus on doing what she's expected to do.

I guess I see too much promise to do the job as it is--I know that schools hold tremendous potential for betterment, and our continued efforts in that regard, I believe, make a difference.