Data, Data Everywhere

In The Seventy-Four Conor Williams opines that we need data and lots of it. Why? Well, to prevent an assault on accountability; to correct all education problems (he uses John Dewey to claim that without more data we can’t even define those problems); to provide research statistics for policymakers; and to help establish a basis for arguing education. His target–Senator Vitter’s, R-LA, bill, the Student Privacy Protection Act which would allow families more control over what student data can be released to the federal government and third parties.

Dr. Williams assumes his readers agree that the “policymakers” best equipped to dictate education policy are the politicians and their appointed educationalists at the state and federal level with the assistance of third parties such as his own New America’s Education Policy Program. While he doesn’t say so directly, I suspect he blames the nation’s inability to achieve true reform over the last 20 years to our failure to collect and share enough data. He laments: “Want to study American students’ reading abilities in grades K–2? There’s essentially no comprehensive national data for you—even though third-grade reading proficiency is a key priority for many policymakers.

And there shouldn’t be “comprehensive national data”. More and more data in the hands of those least qualified to use it effectively only adds another unnecessary burden on school level administrators and teachers while providing more fodder for state and federal agencies to influence, manipulate and coerce schools toward failed reform efforts mostly involving privatization. Look at what we have already created and guess who is benefited the most: standardized, high-stakes testing; charter schools; teacher mills; Common Core State Standards; and vouchers, to name a few.