Frederick M. Hess and Jon Fullerton
Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University
February 2009

If FedEx does it and baseball teams do it, why can't school systems do it? The "it" in question, of course, is using data analysis to aid managerial decision-making. After all, "data driven" is a hot term in education and states are tracking student achievement and financial information more than ever. The problem, argue Hess and Fullerton, is that these data are collected as a "measure of performance," not as a measure for performance--i.e., to be analyzed for future decisions. Instead, we should be using a balanced scorecard approach, where managers view goals and data in one place and can compare how the latter stack up against the former. But poor quality IT systems, lack of incentives to collect better data, and a culture of status quoism make it hard to. This last piece might prove the most important since if data-driven practices are ever to succeed, superintendents and their lieutenants must understand and be willing to try them. This essay is one slice of the complex world of education data, explained more fully in Fordham's A Byte at the Apple, where Hess and Fullerton's idea first appeared. You can read their new paper here.

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