Data myths

Defusing myths about classroom data will help teachers reach all students, argues the Dell Foundation.

Common education data myths stifle progress

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  1. Michael E. Lopez says:

    I hate these things. They’re not just the result of sloppy, disorganized, sophomoric thinking — they encourage it in others.

    One could probably be forgiven for thinking that an infographic following the “myth/reality” format would actually try present realities that somehow (assuming they obtain) were inconsistent with the myths to which they correspond.

    Unfortunately, most people who write things like this have a tenuous grasp of logic at best, and fully half of these “realities” — even if they are true — don’t have much at all to do with their corresponding myths.

    “Better access leads to more efficient teaching” is perfectly consistent with “More data creates more work.” Let’s call teaching without better access T(w). Let’s call the value of T(w) in terms of the amount of work it requires x, so we can say in shorthand, T(w)=x. The authors of this graphic would have you believe that if you have better access (call such a situation T(b)), the greater efficiency makes the work level go down, but of course, that’s not what they said at all. They didn’t say T(b)<T(w), they said T(b) is more efficient than T(w).

    But as anyone who has worked in an office of any kind knows (but especially, in my experience, lawyers and legal staff) simply being able to do things more efficiently doesn’t reduce the work load. In fact, it often increases it.

    “Test data is a good tool for evaluating teachers” isn’t just consistent with “Standardized tests are one indicator of student growth,” but in this case the so-called “reality” actually supports the so-called “myth”. If it’s actually an indicator of student growth, that would seem to make it a good tool for evaluating teachers, no?

    And even if it is true that data-driven insights encourage innovative approaches to teaching” (emphasis added) that doesn’t mean that data-driven instruction doesn’t also limit teacher creativity on an individual level. The every-classroom-on-the-same-page reading lessons that still sometimes get used today are plenty “innovative” (or were at one time).

    The only “myths” that are actually “debunked” by their corresponding realities are all absolute statements that involve words like “just” and “only” and “alone” — and no serious thinker believes that such statements are true in the first place.