Go to any education policy event these days and you’re sure to hear talk of “workforce readiness,” but rarely do these conversations acknowledge that without a high-quality teacher in every classroom, schools will continue to underprepare students for life after high school. Forty-one states have established postsecondary attainment goals as a response to this growing national focus on postsecondary pathways, but we don’t see the same attention being paid to strengthening teacher pipelines. An expanded vision of student success beyond simply graduating high school reflects today’s reality that students must graduate high school ready for college and the workforce.
In order to meet these important goals and ensure that students are best prepared for their future, states must also invest in their teacher pipeline so that every teacher is equipped with the skills they need, like data literacy, to be most effective.
Eighty-six percent of teachers say that using data is an important part of being an effective teacher. Data-literate teachers use data to improve their practice, collaborate with colleagues, and tailor instruction. As an instructional coach, 2012 Maryland Teacher of the Year Josh Parker relied on data to start important conversations with his teachers: “[the teacher I observed] was under the belief that the lesson went OK, but after we went through the data she was able to see this [lesson] really wasn’t successful… After we got to that conclusion, she followed that up with this four letter word. She said ‘I need help. I don’t know how to do some of the things that you’re talking about.’ I said, ‘That’s where we can begin.’” Armed with the right information and skills, Parker was able to have a targeted conversation about instruction and the teacher received the support she needed and wanted to improve her practice. Using data isn’t just about identifying challenges. At its best, data helps us ask and answer the right questions and take action to more effectively serve students.
Data literacy, like most professional skills, must be intentionally developed over time. But current data literacy training is at best, a hodgepodge of one-time professional development sessions or elective courses and at worst, nonexistent. This must change. To reach their education and workforce goals, state leaders need to prioritize strengthening their teacher pipeline with a strong focus on teacher data literacy training over the course of teachers’ careers. This work is urgent and requires the collaborative efforts of state and local decision makers across the K–12 and higher education sectors.
That’s why today, Data Quality Campaign is thrilled to kick off Teacher Data Literacy Week. Join us and our partners for a week of conversations exploring why #TDLMatters and the opportunities that state and local leaders have to incentivize and support the development of these skills in educator preparation programs and classrooms across the country.
This blog is the first in a four-part series published in support of Teacher Data Literacy Week. Look for our upcoming blogs sharing teacher and parent perspectives on the value of teacher data literacy in supporting student success and learning partnership.
This blog is also available as a story on Medium.