Data Drives Us All

Summer is great.  Cheese, beer, and all-you-can-eat Friday Night Fish Frys…welcome to Wisconsin!!  It’s time to sit back, relax, and worry about nothing but enjoying time with family and friends.  Then reality hits…when I got back to Quito the biggest dose of reality that I had to face was the scale in our apartment, YIKES!  I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised after a summer full of eating, drinking and not even looking at a scale.  Time to do something about this!

Fortunately I had the time to dedicate to fixing this problem and getting back on track.  Counting steps on my FitBit became crucial, 10,000 steps per day was non-negotiable now, more was better.  Additional exercise, at least twice a week, had to be done.  Tracking calories taken in, measuring input, was essential.  Gone were the days of attacking life with no plan, data was collected and goals were set.  It took time but it worked, I rectified a summer’s worth of damage…I was “caught up”.  

We all use data every day in our lives to make decisions and act on plans:  How fast are you driving on Ruta Viva, check the speedometer.  Wear that sweater today or not, check the thermometer.  Use the credit card or debit card, check the bank balance.  How much food to buy for the party, check the RSVP list.  Now, granted, there are a lot of things that we do without contemplating data but it’s the times when we really want to get it right that we consult data.  No one wants a speeding ticket, to be cold, overdrawn at the bank, or short of food while hosting so we check the data and make sure we get it right.  

During the summers I throw data out the window.  The only data I care about is on the golf course (mostly, my final score!) and what time we’re meeting grandpa for lunch at Buffalo Wild Wings!  I go about much of my summer with very limited plans, scheduling things the night before and mostly just winging it.  That’s summer, that’s the way it should be…data free 🙂

The school year, however, is a different matter.  Data rules the day.  As educators we need to be making informed decisions.  What data are we using to decide our course of action?  We know the standards at the end and we know the general path toward getting there, but what about all the decisions in between?  Does a diagnostic at the beginning of the unit show us what we need to add or perhaps what we can move through more quickly?  After a bad quiz, do we use the data to make a decision about the addition of a period dedicated to reteaching?  The questions should be about how we regularly use data in our classrooms not about if we regularly use data.

I love data, I’m a bit crazy when it comes to digesting information and analyzing what it all means.  When it comes to data, I can get a bit carried away at times…just ask the people who used to be in the bowling league with me in Shanghai (that’s a whole different story though).  Despite my love of data, I realize that not everyone else loves data as much as I.  However, that doesn’t mean we can ignore it all together, it must play a role in our practice as educators!

I’ve been thinking about this post for the last few days and while doing so, Facebook (with it’s scary mind-reading abilities) shared a wonderful article with me.  It comes from the Center for Teaching Quality, which is one of my most frequented sites.  This article shares some of the lessons learned by a school that has been data-driven since day one.  One of the overarching things you’ll see in this article is that it takes time and energy to do this well.  This is not one of those things that you can just start implementing tomorrow, this takes planning and careful consideration.  That being said, take a look at the article as it really does a nice job of demonstrating the power of using data to inform educational decisions.  While you may not be able to implement large data-driven plans starting tomorrow, you can definitely get started along the path toward regular data use.  Dig deep into data about your students and before you know it, you will know them as well as Facebook knows me!