Friday, March 8, 2013

Data, sports, and schools: What's the connection?

An article appeared on how statistics and data can be used to improve outcomes. The author said:
  • analytics are advancing and changing everything
  • access to previously unimaginable information and statistics
  • various software programs can break down in breath taking detail . . .
Yet the author continued and said:
  • Many people are still fighting back against the numbers
  • The numbers are the the numbers. But you better know your [people]
  • Even at a conference about using the numbers and analytics in new ways, there is significant backlash against using the numbers in the current ways.
The author concludes with:
  • You can understand those under the microscope being dismissive of those people calculating odds and percentages and best practices while sitting far away from the fray
And there you have it.

On the one hand you have those who advocate for the use of data. Numbers. Statistics. Quantifiable outcomes.

Then you have those in the trenches, those on the field, those doing the work that have a different perspective than those in the offices calculating performance who have never been in the trenches, on the field, or doing the work.

That is the world of education. 

Except this article was about the use of data in sports not the use of data in schools. 

It was interesting to see the similarities between those in sports and those in schools.

Both have data.

There is some skepticism in some quarters about the importance of data.

A big difference is that in sports one can define success. A team wins or loses. Inquiring minds can ask why "Team A" did better than "Team B"? Those who advocate using data in new ways will argue that it is using the data in new ways that is making the difference for those teams that win.

Think "Moneyball."

But in education is the use of data that clear cut?

Do we see winners and losers just based on data?

Some data points seem more important to some people than other data points.

Test scores? Important.

Poverty rates? Not so important to some.

Grade points? Viewed with skepticism by some.

The outcome in education is learning. We need to use all of the available data that we have to try and figure out if students are learning.

But we also need to look at the human factor. How do we quantify the importance of a teacher who cares? Of a teacher who connects with students?

The conversation surrounding the use of data is critical.

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