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Thompson: Honest Data In, Better Policy Out

Diogenes

Data-informed decision-making does not insure good policy, but the New Teacher Center’s comments on Race to the Top are informed by work "with over 300,000 educators in 10 states, and collected teaching and learning conditions data from over 8,000 schools to utilize in school improvement plans." The Center "appreciates the value of gathering data directly and anonymously from practitioners to inform local and state decision-making processes and improve school leadership."

They argue that "RttT guidelines place too little emphasis on changing policy and practice related to school leadership which is one of the fundamental cornerstones for improving student success."

Implicit in the Teacher Center’s comment is a detail that seems lost on data-driven "reformers" - even if we devise a growth model that is precise enough for evaluating a school, there are quantitative and qualitative reasons why such a model could be invalid for the classroom level. In addition to accuracy issues, teacher effectiveness is impacted by school policies over which they may have no control.

Consequently, the Center says RttT guidelines should define ‘effective principal’ more expansively" and RttT should heed research that "shows the need for school leaders to make decisions based on data that incorporate the perspective of classroom teachers."

I’ve never understood why "reformers," who are angered by the terrible results of policies set by principals and central offices, respond by attacking teachers who do not set those policies. But the answer, which the New Teacher Center makes clear, is not to attack principals but to use "contextual data" to enhance teacher and principal quality and create a learning culture which attracts and retains educators. - John Thompson

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