During the past few days working on student progress reports, I have been looking at a quarter's worth student data. At times, I've muttered that dirty four letter word that often defines success or failure and plays an important role in "driving instruction."
I have a reputation as a data hater. Not true. I love data. My Excel spreadsheets are coveted. I collect all kinds of data from student conferences, exit tickets, group project reflections, blog posts and, yes, even standardized assessments. I admit that I don't care for how student data is used. Too often it is used to narrowly define students, reward those who are proficient in the game of school, and strip choice from those who don't measure up.
Data alone can't predict every possible outcome or obstacle. Truth is data can be unreliable and is only as good as the method of collection. Too much data can be a distraction.
I prefer to let data inform instruction as I've written about in an earlier post.
When data informs instruction it works more like a GPS navigation system. You enter the address having a general idea where you want to go, and let the data offer suggestions on how to get there. You're still free to change course, stop, or choose a whole new route. The final decision on your route is based on what you discover along the way. The GPS informs and advises, but it doesn't actually drive the car.
Recalculating . . .
Data is great, but I don't want it behind the wheel. That's my job.