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Black or White - Never Any Gray
|Posted By: Steve Bogdanoff on March 27, 2013|
|The authors' unilateral opposition to using data as a resource in the educational process typifies the myopic thinking on this subject. Noam Scheiber put it best for all K-12 educators in his book review of Nate Silver's "The Signal and the Noise": reality is relentlessly messy and genuine understanding is more than just a numbers game. If there is a more relentlessly messy reality than the process of teaching children, I haven't seen it. Clarifying that reality with data - timely, accurate, valid and authentic data - gives educators a chance to perceive the signal of trends, patterns and relationships that are key to understanding the extent of their students' learning. Good educators don't stop with quantitative data - they enrich it with vast amounts of qualitative resources (including the nuance of student-teacher relationships) that reinforce the importance of Scheiber's second point. Working as data specialists for a state department of education, my colleagues and I are charged with the responsibility of training school and district leadership to build sustainable cultures of data-informed instructional decision making. Our experience shows that when teachers use data to clarify the focus of collaborative inquiry, they have a much better chance to effectively derive important knowledge about their students and put that knowledge into meaningful action in the classroom.|
Data is an essential resource for shining light on the relentlessly messy reality of teaching and learning; even while acknowledging data's importance, good educators also acknowledge that it's not about the numbers, it's about the conversations. The authors would be well-advised to see how this appropriate balance works in good schools before they craft such an all-encompassing and uninformed indictment as "commentary".