Teachers Face Obstacles to Data Use

By Dakarai I. Aarons — August 13, 2009 1 min read
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With the advent of technology, schools now have more data than ever available at their fingertips. That means everyone is jumping in enthusiastically to use it, right?

Not so fast!

In a brief released this morning by the Alliance for Excellent Education, the group says teachers are suffering from what some educators call the DRIP syndrome--data rich but information poor.

The brief says “while student data is becoming more abundant, not enough teachers have access to training, support, and the structures needed to use data effectively.”

The Alliance’s conference this morning on the topic was filled with something unusual at a Washington education conference: actual teachers and administrators!

Those from the ranks of the classroom were not only in the audience, but on the panel to help their fellow educators figure out how, where and when to use all these reams of information to do the much-vaunted “data-driven decision making” most superintendents will tell you is already going on in their schools.

One large barrier to schools using data effectively is the lack of training teachers and administrators have in creating and using good assessments, said Leslie W. Grant, a visiting assistant professor at The College of William & Mary in Virginia.

Grant recalled her own teacher preparation program, in which she said her professor told the class they would have to design an assessment for their lesson plan, but never taught them how.

Schools of education have operated this way for years, and many still do. Moreover, Grant said, up until recently, few states required any evidence teachers had any competency in assessment as part of the licensing process.

“We’re expecting (teachers) to do things they’ve not had training on,” Grant said.
Also key to data use is making creating a culture where people believe in its value, said Norah Lycknell, principal of D.C.'s Janney Elementary School.

“Do you believe in innate ability or do you believe students can progress toward a goal? Data is a tool for the latter,” she said.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.