For those of us in the school biz, we conclude yet another year of excitement, worry and anticipation. Did 2014/2015 meet your expectations? Did you perform well? Did your team? What changes did you personally make this year to improve the lives of the children whom you serve?
I think I am going to declare this “The Year of Data.” We live in the information age, and like the rest of the world we are inundated with information. This deluge of information creates both amazing opportunities, and paralyzing challenges. One of those challenges is maintaining the privacy of our students’ personal data. It has become such an important issue that we made it our lead article, Protecting Student Privacy in Connected Learning. It is written by CoSN’s Bob Moore, who advises us to go beyond compliance and implement specific steps to ensure we meet the privacy expectations of our stakeholders. Another data challenge, one that is becoming more and more pressing, is how to accomplish instructional data integration – how do we share the data between all the separate systems and applications we buy and have running – the LMS, the SIS, the SaaS(s) – all the different programs and companies who have proprietary systems and don’t like to share their toys? Long-time SEEN Magazine friend and writer Art Willer explores this important issue in his article Managing School Instructional Data: Knowing the Right Questions to Ask.
Knowing the right questions to ask will take you a long way, particularly in the area of school turnaround. In his article Turning Around Turnaround: Getting Comfortable with Complexity, SEDL’s Trent Sharp says that despite the rapid changes in education, the school turnaround community must hit pause for a moment in order to engage in a bit of honest reflection about its practice. Specifically, the current generation of school turnaround interventions—at the national, state, and local levels—are not disrupting the deeper inequalities and opportunity gaps that define minority students’ experiences in high-poverty schools. Trent says we will never turn around schools if we continue to perceive these factors as being out of our control. We must first address the gaps in our current processes for justifying, designing, and implementing school turnaround interventions.
Sometimes, it’s easier to perceive things as being out of control. There’s a certain comfort in watching events unfold, not because we like or dislike the events, but because we don’t have to take personal responsibility for those events. But unlike many in the world, we are in a business that matters. Our decisions are important. We are responsible for no less than the future of our nation; we are tasked with preparing the nation’s children - inspiring them, enlightening them and making sure they have the opportunity to have productive and fulfilling lives.
It’s a big job, and there are many things we cannot control. Sometimes it seems like we can’t possibly make a difference. But even in the most impossible situation, we can always control ourselves. That is the starting point. As we conclude yet another school year, it is important that we remember we still have the opportunity to make ourselves better. Read more. Think more. Help those you serve, and those who serve you. Give everything you have. Your kindness. Your strength. Your wisdom. Instead of declaring this The Year of Data, let’s make it The Year of You. A better you.
Arkansas State University
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