There was a brief time when I was teaching that our school’s staff would meet in teams to look at teaching and learning data.
It could have been boring and awful. But it wasn’t.
We had a protocol.
First we collected all the different kinds of data we could think of that might inform our teaching. We would include statistical data including teacher generated test scores as well as state tests. But we would also look at actual student work.
We spread it all out and just looked. Then we would say what we saw. No conclusions. No jumping to fixes. Just observations. “This year our math scores were lower than last year.” “Mary has done a beautiful piece of writing.” “Billy has been absent 20 days this year.”
Only then would members of the team propose a why. Following that the team would propose some changes to instruction and interventions where we identified weaknesses.
Later we would look at the data again to see if the interventions mattered. Or maybe we had insufficient data to begin with.
We didn’t invent this protocol. But it was a good one. And we were fortunate that we had release time to do it.
I was thinking about the protocol this morning when I saw the zip code data from the Chicago Department of Health which included the fact that 68% of the COVID19 deaths were among African Americans and the major hot spot was Cook County jail.
Our mayor looked at the data and proposed some meaning to it.
“Those numbers take your breath away. They really do,” Lightfoot said at a Monday news conference. “This is a call-to-action moment for all of us.”
Chicago is among several major cities that have begun reckoning with the deadlier toll that the pandemic is wreaking on black communities, including New Orleans, Detroit and, as The Washington Post reported on extensively Monday, Milwaukee. The figures in Milwaukee County echo Chicago’s: Despite making up 28 percent of the county’s population, African Americans account for 73 percent of the county’s 45 deaths.
Now there is discussion about the data. Is it because of the pervasive poverty in the city’s Black and Brown communities? A lack of access to health care? Food deserts? Is it because these are our residents who cannot work distantly, if they have jobs at all?
Or cannot stay home because they have no home to stay safe in?
Or are undocumented immigrants who are not being counted at all?
I’m thinking we need more data.
But this is not school and some of the meaning is obvious.
Cook County jail must be emptied and those incarcerated have to be moved to a safer place.
Resources like testing and medical services must be targeted to those most in need.
It is good to use protocols for looking and acting on the data at a local level such as a single school.
But who couldn’t have predicted that the virus would reflect the racial and economic divide?
Look at that data and tell me what it says to you.