Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Why Data Drives (Instead of Informing)

According to Justin Baeder, “Data is merely one tool at the disposal of skilled, experienced, and knowledgeable professionals.”

The crux of the matter is no one is confident that our classrooms are indeed staffed by “skilled, experienced, and knowledgeable professionals.” In fact, just the opposite. Districts routinely reject expert teachers in favor of novices, whether traditionally or alternatively certified. Even more unbelievable, it is possible for expert teachers to encounter insurmountable obstacles to certification in other states.

No wonder expert teachers end up selling insurance.

No matter how much we debate teacher accountability and the control, or lack thereof, that teachers have over the variables which affect academic achievement, it is beyond dispute that teachers have a huge impact on quality of instruction. The first thing our society needs to do is value education, not only in word, but in deed, by ascribing to teachers the highest esteem. Only then will schools of education be able to accomplish their first thing, becoming way more selective. That way our most able students may be attracted to a career in teaching.

Right now, about half our education students are idealistic and highly able, and another half are pragmatically looking for a job. There need to be a lot more of the first group. Nevertheless, Mr. Baeder's points about the role of data are well-taken. Data is in the driver's seat because teachers are not.

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