By Mary Anne Mather, Managing Editor
TERC’s Using Data for Meaningful Change Blog

2013-12_LFGroup2The 2013 annual Learning Forward Conference in Dallas, Texas faced quite a challenge this past December as a major ice storm glazed the area in a slick crust of sheer slippage. Flights were canceled, and Texas-based drivers found themselves snarled on impassable roads. Using Data, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, was scheduled to present a full-capacity, all-day session on Monday, December 9 entitled Effective, Continuous Data Use Requires Prepared Leadership. Would we make it? Would our participants? (more…)

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

I was bolstered by this bit of news from Tennessee via Learning Forward about the efficacy of teacher teams that meet regularly to share data and strategies. The article is a sound-bite about the good news for student achievement in Wilson County that leaves me hungry for the details about how their meetings are structured,Three teachers collaborating in front of a large chart showing their school improvementy action plan what data they look at, and how that data inform practice. From the published results, they seem to have discovered the perfect storm where collaboration, data, and strategies/solutions meet to make a difference. I, for one—as a facilitator of processes to help conjure similar storms, applaud them!

But the news item also reminded me that there’s more to this kind of success than simply meeting as a team and sharing “what works.” (more…)

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

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.” Albert Einsteinmagnifying glass trained on the word why in red text

Once a school or grade-level data team has analyzed several data sources to pinpoint a student learning problem, they often feel ready to leap into action and solve it. To ensure that the solution pursued produces the hope-for results, it’s essential to engage in a collaborative process of causal analysis to identify the “root” cause of the problem.

There are many tools that support root cause analysis, one of them is referred to as Why-Why-Why—a question-asking technique used to explore cause and effect relationships. Why-Why-Why helps a group look beyond symptoms to underlying causes by taking the identified problem and asking why it exists at least three times—each time probing more deeply. (more…)

Guest Blogger: Dr. William L. Heller, Using Data Program Director, Teaching Matters*

Summer has arrived, and the last of our current data institutes, like the school year itself, has come to an end. But as the participating data teams leave, Road Sign indicating "The Beginning" with dramatic blue sky and clouds.carrying not a diploma but an action plan, they realize that their work is only just beginning. It is not a graduation; it is a commencement. And the first step in the journey ahead is to introduce the action plan they developed to the principal, administrators, teachers, parents, and other stakeholders in their school communities. This requires another planning document—a strategic communications plan, inviting others to invest in a shared vision for bringing the action plan to reality.

So…what are the elements of a good communications plan that will get others behind the action plan? (more…)

By Diana Nunnaley, Director, TERC’s Using Data

Depending on where you sit, and which frame of reference shapes your work, you either celebrate charter school efforts or think charters reflect a “right” wing or “left” wing  (take your pick) conspiracy to undermine the role of public education in the United States.

A blog post is too short a space to weigh into the considerable arguments both pro and con that can be made regarding the place for charter schools in America. To my thinking, charters are a natural consequence of Americans seeking a solution to a social problem. We may not agree on the substance of the problem or the direction of the solution, but in a society that values and applauds entrepreneurial efforts, charters are here to stay. That is, they have a place until we learn more about the experience (hopefully by examining the data) or, have a collective epiphany about the impact of poverty on kids’ success in learning and activate the collective will to change the way we fund and support local education.dictionary page with definition of the word data somewhat out of focus

Charter School Vision Equally Blurred

Based on my experience working in schools across the country, the reality is that teachers in charter schools bring the same passion and desire to help children learn as teachers in any other public or private setting. They face the same staggering challenges and then some. And they bring the same blind spots to the table when examining their student learning data. (more…)

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

Shimmering water view Falmouth, Massachusetts

A beautiful morning walk in Falmouth, Massachusetts

A recent weekend wedding celebration on Cape Cod brought together a stirring mix of sapphire shimmering ocean, stunning bride (who I had the joy of watching transform over the years from little girl to accomplished young woman), and satisfying conversation with long-time friends—an enjoyable mix of hilarity, nostalgia, and sometimes serious discourse.

During several early-morning walks with friends connected through our work as educators, the more serious discourse returned time and again to an impassioned discussion about teacher evaluation. This conversation was prompted in particular by a June 4 Washington Post article, Maryland Teacher Evaluation Redesign Bogs Down. We were somewhat stunned to learn two pieces of data: 1) Almost a year ago, Maryland won a $250 million federal grant to build a “transparent and fair” teacher and principal evaluation model that would tie their success to student test scores and learning, and 2) The state is seeking a year’s extension to fully execute the evaluation system it has yet to develop.

“Two-hundred fifty million,” my friend mused. “They could hire 250 people and pay them a million dollars each. With that kind of brain trust you’d think something could be developed in a year.” We laughed, but think about it. (more…)

GUEST BLOGGER: Dr. William L. Heller, Using Data Program Director, Teaching Matters*

There is an important lesson to be learned from a soccer game played between Barbados and Grenada at the 1994 Shell Caribbean Cup. In this tournament, tied games would go to sudden death overtime, and any subsequent goal scored would be a “Golden Goal” worth two points. Barbados needed to win by two to progress to the next round, and in fact they were ahead 2-0, when Grenada scored.

soccer ball on the goal line of the fieldWith just minutes left in the game, a quick-thinking Barbadian player scored on his own goal, tying the game in order to invoke sudden death and buy some time for his team. Grenada’s players then tried to score on their own goal, hoping to lose by one, but Barbados was able to successfully defend Grenada’s goal. The game went into overtime, and Barbados won 4-2.

You would think that it would have taken a great deal to get these players to go against years of training and experience to want to score on their own goals, but all it really took was a momentary change in their accountability system.

We’ve seen a similar effect this year in New York City middle schools. (more…)