News and Events

Group of people standing on a graph line that is pointing upwardIn early May, TERC’s Using Data Director, Diana Nunnaley, was invited to attend an important national meeting that can have future influence on public awareness, policy, and pre-service and in-service teacher preparation related to data literacy for teachers.

Diana was selected because of the groundbreaking work TERC initiated over ten years ago, developing a process of collaborative inquiry that engages teachers in cycles of data analysis and root cause analysis to inform instructional changes. Using Data currently works in districts and schools nationwide, building teacher-led data teams and facilitating a proven process of data analysis, instructional improvement, and increased student achievement—all leading to successfully narrowing achievement gaps among student population groups.   

The meeting was coordinated by WestEd and Education Northwest, and supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It brought together 50 nationally recognized experts who have studied the meaningful use of education data to improve instruction. They represented several universities, education research organizations, professional development providers, and foundation leaders.

Diana shares a glimpse of the discussions that ensued at the meeting and the musings they spurred. She concludes with a call to action for all who are committed to excellent education for all children… (more…)

GUEST BLOGGER: Kevin Dwyer, Education Consultant, LearningDesignsheadshot of the author, Kevin Dwyer
Twitter: @marketeducate

Education reform is an ongoing topic of public comment and debate in many states. Our guest blogger, Kevin Dwyer, a long-time education consultant and Connecticut resident, fills us in on the Connecticut news that he’s been following…

A fiery public debate about education reform in Connecticut has been ignited by first-term Governor Dannel Malloy. Twitter is alive with back and forth 140-character points and counterpoints (see #ctedreform and #wecantwaitct). Data is at the heart of arguments on both sides.

The driver for the debate is a fact debated by no one: Connecticut has the highest achievement gap in the country. The purported excellence of its suburban schools serve to highlight the gross inadequacies of Connecticut’s urban districts. Students in urban districts are simply not being given the same access to quality education as their suburban neighbors.

Compounding the problem is that Connecticut has failed three times to secure Race to the Top (RTTT) money. Billions of dollars have been awarded in three rounds of funding. Connecticut has yet to earn a dime. Lack of an adequate evaluation system to promote effective teaching practices has been a key shortcoming in their RTTT applications.

After the most recent RTTT application failure, the Governot drew a line in the sand. At the State of the State address in February, Malloy said, “Let’s be honest with ourselves, and let’s speak bluntly: many parts of our system of public education are broken.” In essence he said that schools in Connecticut must change—not just urban schools, ALL schools.  He added, in reference to the issue of equitable teacher quality, “In today’s (public education) system, basically the only thing you have to do is show up for four years. Do that, and tenure is yours.”

Opponents and proponents of the Governor’s comprehensive school reform plan have readily lined up on either side of the issues of teacher quality, funding for charter schools, and definitions of education reform. Interestingly, both camps reference common data sources and are able to make data interpretations that selectively support their opposing views.

The Connecticut Education Association (CEA) leaked a memo that outlined their strategy to delay the Governor’s reforms for at least another year. The CEA has launched a television ad campaign which says that the Governor doesn’t get reform right. They attest that the Governor ‘s plan “takes away district control and places it in the hands of the state education commissioner; allows principals to decide which teachers are certified and; and siphons tax dollars from neighborhood schools.”

On the other side of the argument, reform advocacy group ConnCAN  has taken dead aim at the union—telling them to “Come Clean” with their membership about the role of student achievement data and teacher evaluations. ConnCAN is one of a host of groups representing businesses (CT Business and Industry Association), Superintendents (CT Association of School Superintendents), School Boards, and principals who are supporting Governor Malloy’s vision for school reform.

In the end, the question of what’s right for students and educators is being lost. Everyone agrees that something needs to be done. But the message is being buried by claims and counter claims buttressed by the same data—often manipulated to support opposing viewpoints. It leaves the public increasingly polarized about education funding and teacher performance, and wondering whose data interpretations to trust. The REAL challenge remains: figuring out how to move beyond special interests to how to meaningfully and accurately use the data to move together towards educational excellence.

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…)