Data Use, Technology, and Educational Leadership

Last Winners, Accountability, and Conversations about Data

Here’s an interesting post by Bob Sutton about some the emotions one might feel upon winning an Olympic medal. There’s a little bit of evidence to support the idea that while gold medalists are most exuberant about their winning 1st place, it’s the bronze winners who are next happiest. To quote his quote of one of the authors:

“If you win a silver, it is very difficult to not think, ‘Boy, if I had just gone a little faster at the end . The bronze-medal winners — some of them might think, ‘I could have gotten gold if I had gone faster,’ but it is easier to think, ‘Boy, I might not have gotten a medal at all!’ “

Granted, neither Sutton nor I think that this applies to every situation, but I like how this is a sentiment we’ve all had at some time or another.

Is this something that would also apply to school accountability rankings? Probably not… though I do flash back to one of my first faculty meetings as a young teacher. We were reviewing the school’s test scores, and our principal was  touting how we had scored “solidly Acceptable.” In Texas, that’s the one just above “Unacceptable” and all those unsavory sanctions. Despite it’s gallows humor value, there was no round of high-fives. But I appreciated that he thought people were working hard– and that improvement wasn’t about piling on even more work (or shoving people around or inducing panic).

He saw it in terms of taking a step back to rethink the processes that got us the results we got. Looking back, if there’s anything I wished we’d had more of from him (and from central office and other admin), it would have been help analyzing and rethinking those processes some more. Instead of real feedback and meaningful conversations or problem solving, teacher teams were asked to go think it out and plan on their own. As this wonderful article by Cynthia Coburn reminded me of this morning, teachers need the administrators and instructional experts to be part of the conversation in translating evidence into new, improved practices.


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This entry was posted on July 30, 2012 by and tagged , .