What comes before the data-driven culture?

What comes BEFORE you expect teachers to reflect on data?

It’s a familiar story… Admin gets excited about the newest big thing, they do a bit of a “roll-out”, teachers are in charge of running away with it and making it work (with all that time they have, right?), and then it dies… a cold, lonely death… never to be mentioned again (except in the teacher workroom once the newest big thing appears)… Am I right?

We’ve heard it. We’ve experienced it. So where is the issue? Who is to blame? Admin? Teachers? (Oh, please don’t say students…) Who cares? Seriously. Instead of talking about why it doesn’t work, let’s be solutions-oriented! Ok, don’t hate me. There was a tiny bit of sarcasm there.

So example: Let’s say the newest big thing is collecting and analyzing student data (predictable, I know). What can admin do to support teachers? What can teachers do to implement with fidelity?

Let’s start with admin:

I’m sure you don’t need me to, but I can tell you what the biggest issue is in 90% of these roll-outs: TIME.

You can say “there’s no way” all you want, but the reality is that if you don’t set aside a good chunk of dedicated time to data-work, it’s not going to happen, not with fidelity. What does it look like? In my current district, it looks like a two-hour delay for the students twice a month, while teachers meet in content or grade level teams (depending on the building) and discuss their data. This isn’t just “extra time”. Teams are held accountable in these meetings. They have specific agendas and support popping in and out of these meetings.

Support? Yes. Data coaches (hey, hey, that’s me!). We answer questions, we help brainstorm ways to implement (you didn’t actually think it would look the same in every class, right?), and we help teachers with EFFICIENCY.

This is a big one. Teachers are not going to trust that you value their time if you are not working to make things easier for them. Data collection can be so incredibly tedious. Sure, we have technology, but then it takes time for teachers to learn how to use it. Sure, we have spreadsheets, but who has time to make a spreadsheet that does everything we need it to? Are we satisfied with averages? What about student groups? What about sub-groups? “No one” has time for that in a building.

Find someone who does. In our building, it was the data coaches. We did everything we could to help with efficiency. We built a spreadsheet that took care of the tedious bits. We are temporary (two years), but we are dedicated to leaving behind systems that will continue to make things easier for the teachers. You NEED at least one person in the building that takes over the implementation and works tirelessly so that the teachers do not have to. Whether it is an instructional coach, an admin, or a data coach, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that there is someone doing this.

So what about teachers:

If you are not sold on the idea of collecting and reflecting on data, talk about it. As a data coach, I respected the teachers that came to me with their thoughts and opinions. I wanted to know what was getting in the way. I wanted to problem solve for them so their brains could take a tiny break. I wanted to agree with them when they said a student is not just a number. And I did. Trust your support person enough to tell them how you feel. If they don’t work with you on making it work for you, call them out on not believing in differentiation. 😉 

If you are sold, use that extra time. Get it done. And help your colleagues with the same.

What am I missing? What are you doing to set your teachers up for success?

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