Another requirement for teachers sparks controversy

New report says teachers should be required to prove data proficiency for licensure

teachers-data-licensure A new policy brief making the education rounds this week has sparked controversy over whether or not teachers should be required to prove data proficiency as part of their licensure. Proponents say it will ensure student achievement; opponents say it’s a premature move based on not-yet-there data systems.

The report, “Teacher Data Literacy: It’s About Time,” produced by the Data Quality Campaign (DQC) with support from the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE), the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), says that state and federal policies have not gone far enough to promote the skills teachers needs to be data literate.

“Consequently, many teachers regard data as overwhelming, rather than as a tool for improving instruction and ultimately outcomes for students,” the report states.

(Next page: Pro data literacy requirements for teachers)

Based on multiple cited studies provided in the brief, the report claims that when teachers have the training and skills needed to make use of data, they are “better positioned to support improved outcomes for students,” by tailoring their teaching, closing achievement gaps, and producing higher student achievement scores on state tests.

“[This] isn’t just about assessments,” says the report. “Assessment literacy and assessment data are not the entire picture of data literacy.”

According to the report, data can be used to monitor attendance, behavior, outcomes, course grades and patterns, interventions, growth, teacher observations, and more.

The report recommends that to make better use of data systems, of which 41 states have dedicated state funding, state policymakers must:

  • Embed the definition of data literacy into teacher policies and guidelines. For the full definition, read the report.
  • Use licensure exams and performance assessments to measure whether educators have needed data literacy skills before entering the classroom.
  • Promote, support, and incentivize quality, ongoing professional development (PD) that is focused on data use to improve instruction.
  • Incorporate evidence of teacher data literacy skills into performance evaluations.

Along with these recommendations, the report notes that it’s equally critical to provide teachers with safe and easy access to data, ensure that the school has effective technical infrastructure (e.g. enough broadband), and that teachers have enough time in the day to review data—a measure the report says must come from school leaders.

For more information on how administrators can support teacher data literacy, read the report.

Noted in the DQC’s annual Data for Action survey, 19 states report that data literacy is a required component of becoming a licensed educator.

(Next page: Putting the cart before the horse)

Yet, opponents of requiring teachers to use data as part of licensure say it’s too early to know whether or not the data is worth suspending a teacher’s progress.

“Broadening data use beyond test scores, and giving teachers and administrators the time, training, and reinforcement they need to make effective use of data, seem like good moves,” explains Anya Kamenetz, writer for the Digital/Edu blog for The Hechinger Report, and author of several education books. “But five-odd years into the data revolution, it’s a bit hasty to make data literacy part of the definition of quality teaching.”

Kamenetz reinforces that data systems are very new and more research is needed to see what data is truly relevant for teaching and learning.

Also, “A large number of school and districts are using a hodgepodge of antiquated legacy software and lightweight apps. Crafting a literacy policy before upgrading the infrastructure seems like putting the cart before the horse,” she emphasizes.

For its part, the DQC does note in the report that studies have shown that for schools to be successful, their leaders and teachers need to develop more capacity to collect, analyze and use information to inform efforts toward meeting goals.

The report also states that studies suggest that while teachers often do get training on how to access data systems and reports, “they do not receive much, if any, in-service training on how to translate data into instructional decisions or activities in the classroom.”

Many teacher preparation programs also do not focus on preparing educators to use data available to them once they are in the classroom, the brief explains.

“…these recommendations for a path forward are only the beginning,” concludes the report. “State policymakers, as well as other national organizations, teacher preparation programs, and school districts, will need to take this framework as a starting point and do further work to create a data-literate teacher workforce.”

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