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       DATA – one might be hard-pressed to find a more overused word in education during the last 15 or so years.  Right?

     Traditionally over the last 15 years, this buzzword has been hotly associated with the high stakes-testing environment and was primarily referring to how students did on a variety of standardized tests. 

      Sometimes, we also collected and evaluated data related to grades, GPA’s, graduation rates, dropouts, attendance and more.

      But as education works to become more relevant, I think the time has come to collect and analyze data that could be much more meaningful and applicable to all stakeholders including students.

    Here are a few examples of the type of data that we begin gathering in this new paradigm:

·       Student Survey Data on everything from teacher support, course satisfaction and engagement, course ideas, project ideas, instructional practices, school safety, technology and more.  We need better and more feedback from students about their learning experiences.  This should lead to more student buy-in and better student experiences.  Educators need to use student input to adapt and adjust their programs.

·       New Performance-Based Goals - To what level students are meeting or mastering a performance-based rubric related to their personal and professional goals (how often presenting publicly, publishing, etc.) should be a big part of the new data directive.

·       Students’ Digital Footprint – this will include, but not be limited to social media profiles and activity (both positive and negative), professional web presence (each student will have their own website and have to meet a grade level standard of published work, projects, etc.) and more.

·       Participation in co-curricular and extra-curricular events – to some degree this is not brand new.  However, we need to document more than just sports, clubs and school activities.  We need to now include things like off campus service, part-time work, involvement in professional organizations, entrepreneurial activities and more.

·       Mentoring – In addition to every student having a staff or faculty mentor, every student needs to have at least one professional or off campus mentor.  This should be related to their interest and career areas and could be e-mentors as well.  I know, I know, I know – there will be lots of concerns about legalities and policies.  Well, let’s not allow that to stop us from providing what all students need and deserve.  All should have a variety of mentors and we should document data related to the meetings, opportunities, and collaborative interactions between students and mentors.  We need to connect students to people who are doing what they are interested in and can support their Personal Learning Network.

·       Contests and Competitive Events – again, this has traditionally been limited to sports, performing arts, FFA, etc.  These are great, but we should expect and require all students to compete professionally in the real world.  These can be on-line contests, local and regional competitions or more.  All students should be sharing their best work in their areas of interest and getting feedback through competition.  And again, this would be data that would be gathered and analyzed.

·       Technology, Tools and Resources – many students become very adept and talented at a variety of tech tools and applications, as well as even traditional tools.  Not only is this important, but necessary.  We should encourage master of tools and applications and then document these professional proficiencies like we do with adults. 

       As usual, this is not the end, but only the beginning.   I’m sure all of you could add to this new Data Dashboard.  So, data should be collected, analyzed and used to inform education, but not in the limited ways we have traditionally done.

(photos courtesy of Foter, FFA, Tulare County Office of Education, Minarets High School)


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