What’s Missing From Education Reform in America?

2010: Behind the Data Dashboard in the Race to the Top

“If we do not change our direction, we are likely to end up where we are headed.” —Chinese Proverb

Data systems are the hot new thing in education reform. The Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System (TVAAS) was such a system. In the Race to the Top, Tennessee won $500 Million to develop TVAAS.

According to Tennessee’s oral presentation to reviewers, TVAAS does not rank students according to test scores but instead provides information on how test scores are related to a variety of other factors in the child’s life.
The information is combined into a data system.

How does the data system work?

Here’s an excerpt from an explanation offered by Dr. Jim McIntyre,
Superintendent of the Knox County Schools and the Tennessee PTA’s 2010 Outstanding Superintendent of the Year:

Through our longitudinal data system plan we’re also going to make links both vertically and
horizontally with other data systems in the State of Tennessee, other state organizations, other state agencies, other educational agencies, so on the horizontal access, sort of connecting to higher education and early education and going across organizations to connect with the data from organizations like the Department of Children Services so that we can draw a more comprehensive 360 degree portrait of each of our students and that will really help  serve their needs and help us to look at the effectiveness of the efforts that we put out.

Tennessee’s State Education Commissioner Tim Webb replied:

One of the things that we’ve done is to actually go ahead and roll out the dashboard it’s a teacher dashboard that allows teachers to have a one-stop shop where they can see their students re-rostered and have all the value added scores and achievement scores, but not only that we’re moving that down the road toward all those things that Dr. McIntyre talked about earlier that will be a part of the linkages with children’s services, all those other things, so it’s a one-stop shop so the teachers can go get that information and it’s point and click. They are able to drill in on those students and look at the data for those students and they can determine what weaknesses are and then start asking questions about what then. To get at the utilization piece we’ve already begun to role that out through webinars and WebEx’s across the state. We’ve already begun to see massive increases in the numbers of hits on that Web site and those teachers actually using that data. . . .

Further discussion revealed that access to the complex data system was currently limited to fourteen percent of the teachers. As Dr. McIntyre put it, “I think we sort of built the car before there were paved roads and there wasn’t a direction to go in, across the nation we didn’t know which questions to ask about that data to use it most effectively, we didn’t have a model for using it.”

An old adage warns that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Perhaps that road will soon be paved with data.


What one teacher has to say about “value-added” evaluations: View Story


Update: Dr. Jim McIntyre retires.


Excerpt on a decline in reading proficiency:

“One possible explanation for the decline, which occurred statewide as well, is a misalignment between what was being taught and what was being tested.”