Data can be valuable, but it can also be manipulated--context is important as we strive to improve public education for all students.

Data doesn’t talk–people do


Data can be valuable, but it can also be manipulated--context is important as we strive to improve public education

A media friend was looking into a recent Vanderbilt study on six unidentified school districts across the state. The researchers found that “more students were chronically absent this fall than in previous years, and absenteeism increased the most among English Learners, students of color, and students who are economically disadvantaged.” I told her I was not concerned about the latest findings.

When pressed on the issue, I pointed out that the sample size was a little concerning. Only 6 districts were represented; my guess is they looked at the larger urban areas. I find the research misleading. There are 147 districts in the state, each with unique and distinct issues. If we rush in and try to apply a one size fits all solution to any issue, we would be making a mistake.

By failing to identify the six individual districts, the results from the research were problematic to me—as well as to other stakeholders and policymakers as well. The study has some interesting findings. It would be useful to those 6 unidentified districts. However, I am not certain there is a crossover for other districts.

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