Brennan Parton posted on January 9, 2013. 0 Comments

Teachers Should Not Have to Wing It When It Comes to Data

Category: Data Literacy, Teacher Effectiveness

This post, by DQC’s Brennan McMahon, was originally posted on the SCORE Sheet in December 2012.

I recently got engaged to be married, which is a very exciting time, and also one filled with lots of details and questions to consider. In order to start planning a wedding, and navigating all the conversations and details that entails, I need information fast. The good news is there are hundreds of resources online that provide information on wedding planning inspiration, planning guides, budget tips, and more. That wealth of information, unfortunately, is also the bad news. I am, as we commonly say in education, data rich but information poor; overwhelmed by resources but not quite sure how to use them, or which are best to use.

Many educators may understand the feeling. As the value of data and data systems becomes increasingly apparent, there is more and more data in the field, but not enough information and training on how to use those data. Consequently, teachers may find themselves with stacks of data files and limitless data dashboards, but a limited understanding of where to go from there. Our teachers are our best and most powerful classroom resource, and states need to work to ensure that teachers have the resources, tools, and skills they need to use data to inform their professional judgment and impact student learning.

One vital avenue to providing teachers with training on the skills and tools they need to use data effectively is to ensure that teacher preparation programs have integrated those skills into their curricula. Currently only 19 states—including Tennessee—require that teachers are data literate in order to be certified to teach in the classroom. By laying the foundation in the training programs, teachers walk into the classroom better prepared to use data to inform their decisionmaking. Teachers who have access to and skills to use data are better equipped to positively impact student achievement (check out exciting research to that point highlighted here!).

While I will have to wing it on wedding planning (I think it is OK they don’t teach this stuff in school), teachers should never be left to wing it on important skills that help them help their students. States and teacher preparation programs can work together through implementing policies and practices that ensure that teachers enter the classroom with data use skills. And of course, as with all professional development, the training should not stop there, but instead should continue throughout teachers’ careers.

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