By golly, Data can be good for you!

Here at Silverback Learning Solutions, we are always keeping tabs on conversations on important topics in education, and “data” in education is consistently one of the biggest amongst educators and industry experts alike. Edweek is always at the top of their game in providing the latest information and opinion on data. Reporters Sean Cavanagh and Michele Molnar penned a recent piece entitled, “Opening School Data Carries Economic Value, Report Contends”. The article details a new report from McKinsey, which talks about the “potential payoff in expanding the openness of data across K-12: robust economic growth”.

Wow. We couldn’t have summarized it better…

There are many influential people and decision makers that still tend to fear “data” and what modern analytics capabilities will unveil? How much will it cost? What will it really tell us? Can we trust what it tells us? Data or “Big Data” as it’s often referred to, is empowering in very meaningful ways which have been evidenced in healthcare research, energy, financial services, and yes… education! And as the McKinsey report and Edweek article both illustrate, we as industry decision makers in education need not fear it, but should warmly embrace the clarity it affords us to make, measure, and refine improvements in education. The McKinsey report underscores the many ways data can be leveraged as a resource in education – not only to empower teachers to teach students better, and help students learn in a more personalized experience, but to also drive costs down by enabling comparisons of methods, curriculum and learning technologies’ comparative effectiveness – everything from learning management systems to school bus purchases to the costs of running a school board.

If you looked beneath the surface, I believe some people are afraid of data because it is agnostic to opinion, and could be contrarian to their opinion. But if we’re plugging in the most important questions and queries to get answered that are most important to everyone regardless of opinion, the results from the data can serve as a dispassionate tie-breaker and confidently accelerate the velocity of adoption and change in education. It’s human nature in each of us to want to “do the right thing”, data can help us to better understand what the right thing to do is, and sometimes it may surprise us (i.e. the world is round not flat). Good data can be a valuable and agnostic asset in facilitating better teacher evaluations, rapidly evaluating curriculum and instruction technologies, elevating assessment standards, and comparing industry best practices to show us how lighthouse districts can help raise broader district improvements through proven, well-traveled methods, resources, practices and tools. Data can level the playing field and at the same time raise the bar because we are using concrete information to build each student’s “educational dream house”. McKinsey makes the argument that the use of quality data will drive student achievement and create “robust economic growth” by increasing student achievement and financial savings. They examined education, consumer products, consumer finance, electrical systems, health care, oil and gas, and transportation.

I encourage you to read the McKinsey report , and contribute to our community conversation. As usual, we welcome your valuable input. Let’s keep this conversation and momentum to educate others and better understand the benefits of leveraging data/analytics in our schools.

Alex Sundali
Communications Director


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Posted: November 21st, 2013