Infinite Insights Recap: New Data Insights are Critical in Today’s Environment

Posted by Andrea GronbergO

August 18, 2020


Hoonuit’s Infinite Insights virtual event series offers education leaders a space  to share their data successes,  collaborate, and ideate. This blog series summarizes the insights gleaned from each session. Watch a recording of the event here. 

On Wednesday, July 29th three of our education partners discussed plans for and the uncertainty of teaching and learning, assessment strategies, and how data will play a role in instruction this school year.

We were fortunate to have had Joel Rabin, Owner of Inform 2 Inspire join us as a guest presenter. 

  • More than 20-years of experience in K-12 research and data
  • Former Associate Superintendent of Natomas Unified School District
  • Consulting with school districts on successfully using data and turn them into reports and infographics that tell a better story 

New Data Insights are Critical in Today’s Environment

Joel Rabin, founder of Inform to Inspire, kicked off the July Infinite Insights discussion with a call to use K-12 data differently this year to support educators. Rabin is a firm believer that educators can still utilize data to help them teach their students better. He describes data as a tool to measure student performance and progress and accountability as a way to see if targets are hit. Rabin believes data can help educators find different approaches to teach and support their students. “A lot has changed for schools and our teachers, but what hasn’t changed even in the strange world we’re living in is the need for data. And what hasn’t changed for teachers is that they’re still going to be focused on helping students learn and grow and become college and career ready.” 

Rabin understands that teachers can no longer rely on their normal teaching practices. He believes a key to success in the new normal is helping them navigate and adjust. “Our teachers are being asked to teach on computers away from their students in a turbulent economic and social environment, and with little training on how to use these new tools. And by the way, they’re still trying to hit that same target with all this happening around them,” he points out. 

“As data leaders, we need to measure things differently. We need to support teachers and other educators by using data in different ways. This year we probably need to shift our focus away from performance data. One way we can do that is by helping our colleagues with process data. So if you’re already doing that, that’s great. But if you’re not, one thing that you can do is use student enrollment data, student attendance data, and other data to help your colleagues make other kinds of decisions. How to schedule students? How to plan for the future? How to staff schools? And, even how to purchase PPE or technology,” explained Rabin.

Using Data to Meet Basic Needs

Rabin also identified ways that the work of educators may be different this year. Similar to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the model describes how different needs must be met at lower levels before they can satisfy the needs at the higher levels. At the foundation are things like food, water, and safety before advancing toward belonging, esteem, and self-actualization at the top of the pyramid. 

“Right now, people are focused on the bottom of the pyramid. One thing that I think we need to recognize is that our marginalized communities are being hit the hardest. Then consider that our teachers are about to walk right into those challenges with tools that are unfamiliar to them, right? Like this webinar, Zoom, Google Hangouts, and the rest of the technology that they have to use. Then you also need to recognize that with all of that, we need data to do things differently for people,” says Rabin. 

“Right now, more than ever, we need to use information that we have at our fingertips to ask other kinds of questions. For example, how many students participated in school last week? And which students didn’t? And to be able to give a list of those students and their names to the teachers and the principals. Which teachers have the technology they need? Which teachers have been trained to use Zoom, and how many students have a functional computer at home? Which students are being distracted so much at home that they can’t focus on school?”

Help Your Colleagues Leverage Data

Rabin believes the challenges brought on by school closures and distance learning will require new strategies and cadences. “I want to make sure I’m really clear on this next point. Often as researchers, we collect data and report on it, and we think we’re finished. I think now is an important time for us to realize that we might need to do that same survey or that same study again and again and again. Maybe a teacher who had a student who was engaged in September is no longer experiencing that in October and November. So we all need to be patient and avoid judgment.”

Rabin also emphasizes the need to help educators and colleagues utilize data. “When I first got into this business many years ago, I had just finished my doctorate and people were telling me that I needed to figure out how to communicate these complex data and reports in simple, plain English,” he said. “In other words, just because those of us on this call work with large data sets and we do complex analysis and calculations. When we produce a report or prepare data for others, they shouldn’t need a master’s or a doctorate degree to understand what we’re saying. Now is a great time to share your skills and knowledge to help people in your district that you might not have worked with before. No matter what their role is, they need data to do their jobs well. It’s a great time to reboot and show people that data is not a hammer, that they don’t need to be afraid of data, and that we can help them survive and thrive in 2020.” 

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