You Need Measurement to See Problems

In 2016 I wrote a series of blog posts about different conditions of our schools and districts that I think are worth measuring but are often ignored by schools.  Each of these posts makes the case that you should measure this topic and gives practical guidance on how you might go about it.  Here are the seven posts:

These blog posts were intended to get leaders thinking about identifying problems in our system.  Each school or district should measure what matters most for them to achieve their vision.  In other words, your school system should be breaking down the components of your strategic plan and measuring (in the most practical way possible) how you are doing.  This approach allows us to identify where we are falling short and maintains our focus on what we set out to achieve.  The sooner we identify problems, the sooner we can understand these issues and put in place innovations that will allow us to improve.  For something to be “innovative” it must solve a problem.  Too often in education, the problem we are solving is the lack of the “innovation” we are proposing. 

I know a leader of a school that repeatedly pushes back when the community brings up test scores.  The test scores for this school are good, but not great given the demographics of the students.  The principal is fond of pointing out that they believe in more than test scores and points to other values (or character traits).  The premise that a school would care about more than test scores makes perfect sense.  The issue is that the school makes no attempt to practically measure how they are doing relative to their vision, they simply assert that they are doing well.  This approach means there is no incentive to improve or innovate and no mechanism to determine whether any efforts to change (by teachers, the leader or the community) have had any positive impact (beyond anecdotes).   

Before you start digging into the root cause, brainstorming solutions, and testing the best idea, you need to have a problem that has negative consequences for your stakeholders if it is not solved.  What’s more, by having a practical and consistent measurement system in place, you will also be able to measure which solutions improve outcomes.