Student Outcomes
Chapter: Aligning Measuring Outcomes to Purpose

WHY AND FOR WHOM ARE YOU MEASURING THESE OUTCOMES?

Sarah Wolman from Lego Foundation captured it beautifully-

We all know, we certainly know what’s right for child development, overall, and I’m absolutely   convinced that they are the ones right for kids in terms of the kind of choices they have, helping providing them with some trajectories and choices in mind. The challenge is that they are so integrated that I think that if we fall back in the traditional way of thinking about assessing progress or defining quality, or capturing outcomes, I think we will always going to be at a loss, because if we tease out the grit factor, and it becomes about the grit scale and it’s not integrated with these other aspects of children development. I think we hardly get to make the big picture of how kids are doing and I think this is a fundamental challenge for our sector. It cannot just be about how many letters they know, it has to be about the bigger picture of children development. The challenge is how you resist the temptation to totally extricate one skill set from the other, put them all into a scale and lose some of the richness on which children really start to develop as people, which is in this very integrated way. So the challenge of course is in the relationship between the outcomes and the progress for kids and for teachers.

Keeping this in mind, once you have narrowed down on the set of outcomes you want to track progress on, it is time to think critically about the different objectives that your data is supposed to serve.  When we think of tracking progress or measuring these outcomes, the most fundamental question is the purpose of measurement– is it to track student progress towards a shared vision, is it to inform teacher action in the class, is it to build a sense of ownership of their learning in students, is it to share progress with the parents, is it to track progress against set goals for the organization, is it to show results to stakeholders such as government, funders/donors who are already invested in the cause, is it to raise funding to recruit new invested stakeholders or is it to build an academic understanding of the criteria being measured? The driving force behind measurement could be one or a combination of these.

So, generally speaking, organizations might be more interested in growth-monitoring tools that can be “rolled up” into a dashboard that allows generalizations to be made about the progress of a large number of classrooms.  An individual teacher, however, may value the most simple and practical—even if scrappy and less externally “validated”—means of shining a light on the growth of their students.

Wisdom Amouzou, a teacher shares how the data collected needs to be a mix of both qualitative and quantitative –

Quantitative because typically it’s what guardians and gatekeepers to the present system will be willing to listen to or conform to. So this is a mix of survey data, classroom discipline/engagement metrics, and what the American education system loves more than anything…test scores. The qualitative is where it’s best to use your most decolonized thinking. My measurement was moments of radical truth-telling that I could capture, and then celebrate publicly with classes on a routine, daily, and weekly basis. The most important measurement is action. Action of any kind no matter how basic or well-organized. Here, the educator has to operate as a cultural ethnographer of sorts. You should, with an almost obsessive sense of passion, record and document as many moments of action from your students so they can visually track and see the progression of their transformative resistance and they begin to see the necessity of praxis and take ownership of their own

The landscape on the resources available to track progress against most of these themes is noisy. While there individual resources to track each of the smaller elements in these themes, there aren’t enough resources that capture the inter-relatedness of it all.

The purpose of the data is intertwined with who is using the data. Once you answer the questions alongside, it would be easier to pinpoint how the data will be used and by whom.

Who will be using the data?

  • Is it just the teachers and students in a classroom setting?
  • Is it for the school leader to inform decisions at a school level?
  • Is it parents who after the PTA will use this data to introduce routines and practices outside of the classroom learning environment?
  • Is it the teacher coach to have a data-driven conversation post a classroom observation?
  • Is it a Head of Training to inform org wide training decisions?
  • Is it a funder or a donor to check for impact against $ spent?
  • Is it a government to justify the program’s existence?

It is however important to remember that not everything that counts can be counted or that everything that can be counted counts.


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