Data is not the enemy of great teachers

There is a backlash against data in teaching. Here in the UK, and even more so in the USA, teachers seem to be reacting against efforts to put ever-greater weight on fairly narrow statistical measures by rejecting them completely. Two examples of this poor practice are

  • Teachers in the USA being ranked on ‘effectiveness’ based on test scores alone.
  • UK schools being judged as failing if they fail to reach an arbitrary standard of less than 30% of students achieving 5 or more ‘good’ GCSE grades.

For me, great teachers and great schools will reject people arbitrarily taking one or two narrow measurements and then imposing their judgements. This is certainly the correct thing to do – imposing judgements about success or failure deskills, demotivates, and deprofessionalises teachers in the same way that it does with students.

However, a great, reflective teacher or school leader will be actively searching for ways to measure their own effectiveness, and will be searching out colleagues and schools who are demonstrating excellence. One aspect of these measurements will be test scores, and value-added. Other aspects will be student feedback, lesson observation comments, action research carried out, colleague recommendations, and so on.

Testing and analysis is just one tool in the effective educator’s arsenal. Currently it is overemphasised chronically, misunderstood by many, and misinterpreted. The key is to create a climate where everyone shares and suports, and everyone is looking to understand, reflect, and improve constantly.

Don’t throw the valuable “testing” baby out with the dirty “accountability extremism”bathwater.

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