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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Why Data Drives (Instead of Informing)

According to Justin Baeder, “Data is merely one tool at the disposal of skilled, experienced, and knowledgeable professionals.”

The crux of the matter is no one is confident that our classrooms are indeed staffed by “skilled, experienced, and knowledgeable professionals.” In fact, just the opposite. Districts routinely reject expert teachers in favor of novices, whether traditionally or alternatively certified. Even more unbelievable, it is possible for expert teachers to encounter insurmountable obstacles to certification in other states.

No wonder expert teachers end up selling insurance.

No matter how much we debate teacher accountability and the control, or lack thereof, that teachers have over the variables which affect academic achievement, it is beyond dispute that teachers have a huge impact on quality of instruction. The first thing our society needs to do is value education, not only in word, but in deed, by ascribing to teachers the highest esteem. Only then will schools of education be able to become way more selective. Then our most able students might be attracted to a career in teaching.

Right now, about half our education students are idealistic and highly able, and the other half are pragmatically looking for a job. There needs to be a lot more of the first group. Nevertheless, Mr. Baeder's points about the role of data are well-taken. Data is in the driver's seat because teachers are not.


  1. And most administrators are clueless when it comes to selecting outstanding teachers. I speak from experience as a former principal and Special Ed Director. There are great, mediocre and poor doctors, lawyers, salesmen, waiters, mechanics and teachers. The trick is knowing how to recruit and choose. At high schools, it's absolutely the worst. See my take at

  2. From your link, "You can imagine that 5 of these are excellent and 1 is outstanding. The principal's job is to find the outstanding 1 and convince him or her to accept the position."

    And if that one outstanding teacher happens to have years, even decades of experience, the principal will pass (usually) her over for a "cheaper" teacher, forgetting that since the pay scale gives credit for no more than 5 years experience, she is already willing to teach for bargain basement salary.