By Rickie Yudin / June 21, 2017

Who’s Driving Your Data Bus? And WHY it Matters.

Educators are attentive and prudent. They pay attention to detail and rightfully question motives and agendas. When it comes to data, you can be sure we are going to wonder why this information is being shared with us and what the intentions are behind it. If you really want the right messages to get through, make sure you have the right people driving your “data bus”.

2 Main Reasons Why:

  1. The “bus driver” has full control. As ProPublica wrote a few months back, the collector (or driver) has a large amount of control on the selection and distribution of information. If you want educators on your side, make sure the collector is aligned with the purpose of the work. We all know that data can tell a story. What story it tells, though, depends on its intended audience. If the person selecting the data doesn’t match the needs of the most influential users, that person shouldn’t be driving.  
  2. What Agenda Gets Promoted: There is only a limited amount of time educators have to aggregate, meet, and discuss data. The information that gets shared will likely be filtered even further (after having already been filtered for audience and selection) for a particular agenda. The data driver should be steering that agenda toward the key indicators of success for the organization, not the agenda.  

4 Things to Consider When Selecting the Right Driver:

  1. Are they “in-touch” on a regular basis with the inner-workings of the interested party?
    • For example: If collecting data for math achievement, make sure the designated person setting the goals and collecting the data has a deep and full understanding of the day-to-day happenings in the math department and classroom(s). Someone immersed in the culture can offer cultural knowledge that someone removed from it might not be able to.
  2. Do they have a vested interest in the collection of data?
    • You’ve selected someone who fully understands the situation, but are they concerned with the outcomes of the data collection?
    • The person you’ve selected is passionate about the collection of data in order to improve your school or district.  
  3. Are they objective in their goal setting for data collection?
    • You want to make sure that the data is trustworthy and objective. Developing trust in your data is a huge step in the right direction on the road of data aggregation. Being able to step back and assess the data you’re collecting for an objective standpoint is a great way to achieve this.
  4. Are they a respected thought leader in your school/district space?
    • Someone in this position at your organization can offer positive leadership. They try to stay ahead of the curve and can be counted on as someone who will help others grow and develop.

As educators, we don’t always have control over who is driving the data bus. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t be conscious consumers of information. Be a critical, but collaborative recipient. If something seems askew, ask questions that might clarify what data has been filtered out at various points in the process. Is there a single source of truth you can go back to for objective data? At different stages and phases of your organization’s development, the driver might change and that’s OK! It definitely doesn’t always need to be one person from start to finish. If it seems like your organization needs support collecting data, it probably does, and it’s no easy task. Partners like Learnmetrics can help with clear, organized, and detailed aggregation and analysis of education data. This saves time and democratizes information so less is being filtered out and more people have a hand in driving your organization in the right direction.

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