One argument I found extremely interesting in many of my experiences with the educational system is that the United States high schools must become more like communities of learning and less like factories. I am sure a number of individuals would argue with that statement; however, I have realized that principals of schools and their teams of leadership have always struggled with a number of aspects of the changes needed for several years. With the current reforms initiatives in education calling students to strive for higher educational scores, the needs for schools to show some kind of progress in attaining goals is increasingly progressing.
The recent emphasis, nationally, on the utilization of data in making decisions has emphasized and solidified the needs for American schools to undergo changes. In the last ten years or so, one of the recommendations of the Study Accountability Study Group in 1998, Office of Educational Research and Improvement, was that the quest of accountability in schools needs better systems for utilization of data for enhancing and improving schools that were low- achieving, and for encouraging schools that were high performance. This recommendation has been voiced periodically and supported by numerous professionals in education, as it argues that better utilization of data can be crucial for improving the quality and success of learning in schools. Other individuals have argued that the utilization of data as a lever for the development of schools that are more effective for students is indispensable.
There are many uses of data in schools and I have observed a number of them. For one, data can be used as a measure of equity and it offers unlimited opportunities to schools and districts working to develop their capacity to provide education to students equitably. There are also numerous benefits and advantages of data that one can experience in schools. For example, data emphasizes the essentiality of mobilizing the involvement of a wide variety of stakeholders and making individuals excited; benefits that can be generally summarized to focusing passion, people and proof on strategically placing school elements around a central goal of maximizing the success of students. The point here is that by analyzing and examining what works and what does not work to improve learning in schools, scarce and valuable resources can be assigned to certain strategies and goals that influence achievement the most. It is here when one must realize that time is the most essential resource. Time invested in the collection of and working with data can result to net savings if it is used to guide a school towards making decisions that pay dividends towards the achievement of students.
Data, therefore, is essential as it can uncover challenges that were invisible, it can convince people of the need or requirement of change and it can be used to discredit or confirm assumptions about school practices and students. Data can find underlying problems and find solutions for them, and it can help schools evaluate the effectiveness of programs and emphasize on the learning results of students. There are, however, a number of factors that can impede the proper use of data in schools. For example, resistance of culture mainly because of the cultural shift data requires students and schools to make. Another factor can be fatalism and fear because most schools and administrators think that data will be used against them or their teaching practices. The complexity and difficulties of assessing data are other factors that might limit data utilization in schools, and so are lack of experience and skills and lack of access to data that is disaggregated and meaningful.
Lachat, M. A. (2001). Data driven high school reforms. The breaking ranks model. Brown University.
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