Education News

GUEST BLOGGER: Mary Anne Mather, Using Data Facilitator & Social Media Liaison on Twitter & FaceBook

Since the story broke, the media and bloggers have actively covered the details about a recent test-score-fixing fiasco—and the news continues (links provided below). There have been commentaries about who really suffers from a scam of this magnitude (students robbed of remedial opportunities) and who is to blame—their motivations…and their motivators (“…targets were implemented…in such a way that teachers and administrators believed that they had to choose between cheating to meet targets or failing to meet targets and losing their jobs.” Volume 3: Conclusions: Why cheating occurred and cover-up allegations, p. 4). Eraser end of pencil laying on test paper showing bubble answersI’m particularly taken withthe data-made-me do-itexplanation. There’s even talk of legal prosecution. This whole mess feels like a major attraction in a very tawdry sideshow of the school reform circus. And sadly, although the media is focused on one district at the moment, test score and data manipulation is not new news.

Yes, there’s explaining to do, and some one (or many) will need to be held accountable, but wouldn’t it be great if the lion’s share of the energy fueling our collective indignation, disbelief, and need for retribution could be channeled to establishing more positive, long-term improvements to a testing and assessment system that has surely gone awry. I’m not yet so tainted that I can’t believe we (saints and cheaters alike) all really want the same thing: exemplary schools, highly qualified teachers, and well-educated students who are life-long learners ready to succeed in their adult lives.

I weigh in with Diane Ravitch on this one, (more…)

GUEST BLOGGER: Mary Anne Mather, Using Data Facilitator & Social Media Liaison on Twitter & FaceBook

Following my PLN (professional learning network) on Twitter is inspiring, and something I consider a precious asset as a lifelong learner. Not a day goes by that I don’t discover an interesting idea, resource, or news bit — all brought right to my doorstep (eDoorstep?). It’s like getting the education version of a good old-fashioned newspaper delivered daily, without the need to recycle. newspaper on slate with apple

Each day confirms again that there is a network of amazing educators out there, as well as informed stakeholders who honor and support them. It allays my growing annoyance with the regular assault on U.S. teacher competency that the news-waves currently pass along. As one recent tweet so aptly noted, “Teachers are not simply tools to be used by bureaucrats to implement policy.” I agree.

I especially enjoy when some of the news that crosses my path helps me to “connect the dots” with the work I do as a TERC Using Data Facilitator. (more…)

GUEST BLOGGER: Mary Anne Mather, TERC Using Data Facilitator & Social Media Liaison


Rhee speaking at NOAA, June 2008

The recent media outcry about whether or not Michele Rhee, former Chancellor of the D.C. Public Schools, exaggerated her students’ test scores has died down a bit this week. But in mulling over last week’s news (See Larry Ferlazzo’s The Best Posts About Michelle Rhee’s Exaggerated Test Scores), I’m reminded of a simple measurement a long-time teacher friend uses before making any important education decision. She calls it the “What’s the Point” (WTP) assessment. She even considered having t-shirts made to remind us always to consider WTP before deciding what we teach and why.

Let’s set aside all the press, subsequent commentary, and or own feelings about the Rhee controversy. It’s not all that useful a discussion. But it does surface, for me, three WTPs.  These points are the bottom line for using data, reporting data, or discussing data for any meaningful purpose, and they might even resonate with those who regularly caution that test scores are unreliable gauges of performance. (more…)

It really is all in the details! This article about the successful use of data (“Peabody Teachers Studying Ways to Better Test Scores,” Salem News, December 24, 2010) by staff in the Peabody Public Schools, a district in Massachusetts, reminds me that when we get it right, the results can be extraordinary and culture changing. The article likens the Peabody teachers to “a team of scientists racing to find a cure.”

With all of the hype about schools becoming data-driven, few details accompany the “business speak” to offer examples of what it means to be data-driven, much less provide a road map for getting there. And just to clarify, we at Using Data prefer it to be a road map to becoming data informed, not data-driven—an important detail that makes room for educator expertise in identifying and applying solutions.

Teachers in three Peabody schools provide solid clues about what data-informed practice looks like in the ongoing work of their schools (and the results that are possible). (more…)

Understanding Race To The Top (RTTT) proposals is complex work, but the mainstream press is having none of it. Their take on RTTT is much simpler. Possibly too simple.

According to many articles, the data systems that are intended to backbone the hard work of refoming schools are, instead, all about “reward(ing) good teachers and weed(ing) out ineffective ones”. At least, that seems to be the conclusion of June Kronholz (more…)

Is it just because it’s back-to-school time? The first week of the Fall season? Media coverage of education is seeing something of a spike this week given tonight’s limited opening of Waiting for Superman and the interviews with its creator, Davis Guggenheim (who also created the documentary An Inconvenient Truth).

Next week’s Education Nation Summit in NYC at the Rockefeller Plaza is also gaining text space and presenting controversy around the list of invitees.  It would be nice if any of this increased the level of conversation following the events. And for those of you who have spent planning time during the opening weeks of this school year analyzing your student data, adjusting your instruction, and paying attention to trends being revealed, how could you display and report the findings of your data team in ways that inform the public conversation in your community. (more…)