The Data Doesn’t Tell The Whole Story

Data. 

A four letter word that carries a lot of weight. 

A summer’s worth of knowledge, learning, and self-worth mashed together and accumulated into tiny numbers in massive excel spreadsheets. 

My teaching quad has received some extra attention this summer because of our exceptionally low amount of student growth; our bad data

“What do you think students will say about themselves and about how confident they feel in math when walking into their math classes in the fall?” the ATF staff who works as the school manager inquired. It was far too late at night to be having this conversation, but it was essential. I didn’t think our data was that low, I pondered in my own thoughts. 

I didn’t know our data was this horrid, my kids definitely don’t know it either. 

“Cocky,” I spat my opinion before anyone else in my teaching quad could take a breathe. 

“Because they don’t know they are the lowest in terms of our ‘summer growth goal’. I didn’t know we were the lowest. They think they are awesome, amazing, hard working, and incredible because one, they are and because two, we tell them everyday,” I was met with a blank stare. 

“So I think they are going to go into their fall math classes cocky and I think even the quiet ones will be showing the whole class how to do stuff and raising their hands because they will leave our class confident”. 

The data is bad not because of a lack of effort. The data is bad because the content is challenging, we have students with IEPs that we cannot legally receive any information about because we are not yet certified, and because we are brand new, first-year teachers who honestly have improved vastly in three weeks yet still have a lot to learn. 

I’m not ok with having bad data. My teaching quad and myself are working our asses off to enable our kids succeed. But I do know that our bad data does not tell the stories of our kids. It does not tell the story of Tamara, who came in with a lack of basic math skills like adding fractions and negative numbers. It does not tell the story of Douglas, who fights through his ADHD as he stands at a podium in the corner of a room in an attempt to stay focused through 4 hours straight of Algebra a day. It doesn’t tell the story of Montoya, who wrote Buddy (one of the teachers in my quad) a letter about her suicide attempt in the 5th grade and the relentless bullying she faces every day when she walks into school. It doesn’t tell the story of John who wrote nothing down for the first two weeks, turned in every quiz blank, and who now, at the end of the third week, has some of the highest marks on my quizzes. 

Data doesn’t tell the whole story, but I still see its importance. I have to do better by my students so that they can tell at least a portion of their story through the data. 

Like I say every day in class, “If you believe in yourself half as much as I believe in you, you will change the world”. And I know they will. Even if they didn’t “grow” this summer. They still will. 

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