One of the running themes here at Dropout Nation is the usefulness of high quality data on student, teacher, and school performance. Such information allows school leaders and politicians to address the longstanding problems within American public education. Data also provides teachers with tools they can use in instruction and in nurturing the young geniuses in their classrooms. (Whether or not the nation’s ed schools do a good job of teaching them how to use it is a different matter entirely.)
But it is families that likely find data to be most-useful. Parents can use data such as Value-Added analysis of teacher performance to demand better for the children they love — from selecting schools , to monitoring their kid’s progress, to challenging failed thinking that helps perpetuate the nation’s education crisis, and even lead school overhauls.
In this Voices of the Dropout Nation, Alex Hernandez, a partner in school reform nonprofit Charter School Growth Fund (and lead writer on the site, Blend My Learning), explains how families will likely use data and blended learning tools to become the driving forces in systemic reform. Think, consider, and offer your own thoughts.
My kindergartner recently completed a Dreambox Learning unit on equivalent expressions (e.g., 3 + 4 + 6 = 7 + 5 + 1). He ran into the kitchen to celebrate and then ran back to the computer… and logged out of Dreambox.
To my surprise, he promptly logged back into Dreambox, but this time he went to the parent dashboard. Our five-year-old wanted data. He wanted to see his progress and make decisions about what to work on next.
Blended learning promises to increase the amount of student data available to teachers and administrators. And sophisticated educators closely scrutinize the reporting capabilities of online content providers.
But I rarely hear educators ask about the data going to students. We tend to “miss” the often profound ways students use real-time, feedback, choosing to focus solely on teachers and minimizing the role students play in their own learning.
I believe the proliferation of student performance data will help students take more ownership of their education, especially as the data from online content providers dwarfs the information yielded from school assessments. During a recent classroom tour, I was fascinated to see ninth graders clearly articulate the relative strengths and weaknesses of different learning resources. Some preferred peer-to-peer tutoring, others preferred direct instruction from the teacher, and still others preferred online content. The feedback provided to the students empowered them to make informed, strategic decisions about their learning.
The ubiquity of student data from online content is also breaking down walls between schools and families. At my first parent-teacher conference of the year, the teacher brought lots of data about my son which was collected over the prior six weeks. I had my Dreambox parent dashboard that showed my son’s performance across a continuum of standards ranging from kindergarten through second grade. In this instance, I actually knew more about my son’s math skills than our teacher. This was a profound shift for me, because, when it came to student performance data, there used to be a tremendous asymmetry of information between schools and families. Schools had all the data and parents did their best to piece together how their children were doing.
The dynamic is now shifting. Just as people use the internet to educate themselves about medical conditions and treatment options, families will use online education assessments to inform themselves about their children’s academic needs.
I suspect families will drive school reform over the next decade. Truly student-centered schools will thrive and mildly-responsive bureaucracies will face increasingly informed and demanding families. If we’ve learned anything about the internet era, we know data wants to be free and it can spark revolutions.