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Performance Management: Is There An App For That?

“Performance management” is one of those buzz phrases that I usually like to make fun of, but I did my best to withhold judgment last week when I had the chance to talk with Lori Fey from the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, which is all over the concept and has a new report out on the topic. (Plus which, my favorite Bush-era press guy Kevin Sullivan pitched it to me.)

Picture 73Five years ago there were “precious few” examples of performance management in school settings, according to Fey, and now there are at least 18 district examples and 14 charter networks doing it.  The newest cohort of Dell grantees includes Denver, Charlotte-Meckl, and PG County.

I remain skeptical about the power and usefulness of this approach, but I did take away at least one hopeful idea:  streamlining data collection and analysis so that it’s a tool not an obstacle to educators and teachers.  It's gotta be easy and fast for it to be of any real use. And I do like the notion that sometimes the data is useful to debunk myths about school performance and start new conversations.  Lord knows we need some new conversations around here. 

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The thing is, we have new buzz words but old conversations. The dashboards are all dash and no board. The "data"--attendance records, grades, test scores are all known and don't add anything new to the table.

We already have very reliable "leading indicators" and have had them for 40+ years.If a kid enters kindergarten and happens to be poor or Black, Hispanic, or Native American, the "analytics" show the kid is at risk. You could honk all the warning signals from every data silo in the country and it wouldn't change a thing. What is missing is any Action Plan to do anything about the instruction. Or to use the business parlance, we lack Educational Intelligence to get the job done.

Citing Austin, Chicago, and NYC as best practices doesn't inspire any confidence.

To effect instructional performance involves delving into instruction, instructional status, and instructional accomplishments. In reading, math, and other schooling aspirations, these are interocular matters. They hit you between the eyes. You don't need to have kids fill in bubbles on artificial paper-pencil sheets called called a "standardized test" to get the "data."

To manage performance, ya gotta have some performance to manage. Buzz words and slick reports don't get the job done.

Why yes Alex, as a matter of fact there IS an app for that! It's called "Schoolnet Mobile" available from the iTunes store.

What exactly is "Performance Management" anyway? I agree, it's not difficult to make fun of the concept. Yet, it seems to drive our current educational system. "It's the teacher's fault!" echoes in politics. I think the power of this approach is incredible in our society. The usefulness, however, completely escapes me. Today, schools and teachers are held solely responsible by standardized test scores. What if a student was having a bad day? Clearly its the teachers fault that they weren't able to focus on their test.

I think Dick hit it on the head when stating what "instructional performance" really involves. Teaching isn't about test scores. It's about helping students to comprehend and apply the concepts presented in class.

Whenever i see the post like your's i feel that there are still helpful people who share information for the help of others, it must be helpful for other's. thanx and good job.

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