That's why data matters.
For example, if you had to guess which of the following field trips was the favorite for most fifth grade students, which field study would you choose?
- Outdoor hike
- Boston Museum of Science
- Harvard Peabody Museum
- In the Heights Musical
- Stewardship Hike
- Challenger Space Center
- Boston Historic Walking tour
Although most students said that every field trip listed was worth including as part of our fifth grade program, the favorite field trip by almost 50% of the 69 out of 76 students who responded was the In the Heights Musical.
I would not have guessed that, and I wonder how many of you guessed that.
What you see or think is not always true?
This is one reason that I'm thankful for standardized tests in part. It's easy to conjecture about who is the best student or what teacher does the best job, and although there really isn't a best student or teacher overall since each of us brings our unique gifts and talents as well as struggles and weaknesses to the job, data, in part, clearly identifies "best" in particular realms and I must say that the data often surprises and informs me--it's not what I might have guessed.
For example if you were to visit the fifth grade at our school, I bet you would never pick out one of our top math students. She was quiet and unassuming, yet her scores and performance were amazing. When I told my colleagues about this girl's work, they were surprised--they never guessed that she was a top performer in math, however, the data demonstrated that clearly.
Now we all know that data can be skewed, misused, and manipulated greatly so when we do collect those stats it's important to collect and analyze those stats carefully and using a holistic lens.
That's why I remain a fan of streamlined standardized testing that's used to better our programs. I'm not a fan of standardized testing as a single determinant of student success or program decision making--I see it as one valuable part of the whole program when used well.
Our system will be looking more carefully at how we use data to promote good teaching and learning in the days ahead. I look forward to this focus and will join the efforts to better my practice too.