Planning Good Change - Page 29 - Next Page

First Things First

7. Match rigorous program assessment to learning goals and student outcomes

The recent networking of schools has been accomplished with remarkably little attention to the assessment of results. The lack of data gathering is akin to sailing blindly through the fog. Because we are exploring many uncharted seas, the risks of ship wreck and failure are quite high. And those risks are made all the more serious by a failure to climb the mast so that the program can be adjusted in response to data gathered as the innovation proceeds.

In the best implementations, we combine our knowledge of best practice in other districts with intense local data gathering to find out which strategies are working and which ones are failing or disappointing. Denial flourishes in a system without assessment and the program can lunge forward toward shallows and hazards without anyone recognizing that there are problems until it may be too late.

The reason we gather data is to steer the program past obstructions and hazards toward success. We shed failing strategies. We redouble commitment to strategies that are working. We gradually shift our energies to those activities that produce the best results.

Without data, all strategies appear equal. We rob both teachers and students of opportunity. We fail to make the most of our resources. We fall more deeply into the trap of doing technology for technology's sake.

Without evidence of student learning, districts can hide behind measures of success that have little to do with schooling.

How computers? How many wired classrooms? How deep is the penetration?

This preoccupation with counting equipment and measuring penetration is characteristic of industry funded reports like the Star Report that make a fantastic leap from the possession of equipment to assumptions of program quality.

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Credits: The photographs were shot by Jamie McKenzie.
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