January 14, 2019


Using Data to Make Decisions
You probably have heard the phrase "using data to make decisions" many times in your professional career. If your education includes background in business or mathematics, you possess some ability to work with data. If your education does not include formal instruction in these fields then your ability to work with data probably has been self-taught.
The recent passage of the EBM formula as the new way to fund public education used research-based indicators such as "effect size" to determine the basic minimum funding level. Education researcher John Hattie uses "effect size" to determine what strategy or action that is implemented in education has the greatest effect on student achievement. In statistics, an effect size is a quantitative measure of the magnitude of a phenomenon. ( Kelley, Ken; Preacher, Kristopher J. (2012). "On Effect Size." Psychological Methods )
For example, in the formula used for the EBM research, implementing full day kindergarten has an effect size of 0.75. Utilizing professional development with classroom instructional facilitators has an effect size of 1.25 to 2.70, while reducing class size in Grades K-3 has an effect size of 0.25 for schools without low income and minority students. Hattie uses an effect size of 0.40 as the minimum required in order to implement a new strategy or action.
In my opinion, educators too often make decisions that are not research based and, more importantly, they do not re-examine the new strategy or action following implementation to determine if the strategy or action should be continued. I believe this data-driven way of making decisions is the new method educators should be using to lead schools and school districts effectively.
The seemingly easy concept of teacher estimate of student achievement has an effect size of 1.62. Collective teacher efficacy (PLC) has an effect size of 1.57. Why aren't all school districts doing professional development on these two concepts? They predict high student achievement as a result.
Hattie charts 250+ influences on student achievement in his Visible Learning book (click here to view the chart). A few noteworthy actions are the following:
  • Piagetian programs 1.28
  • Self-reported grades 1.33
  • Comprehensive instructional programs for teachers 0.72
  • Early years' interventions 0.44
  • Parental involvement 0.50
Some influences most educators believe are important but are not backed up by research are the following:
  • Morning vs. evening 0.12
  • Whole language approach 0.06
  • Use of calculators 0.27
  • Intact (two-parent) families 0.23
  • Finances 0.21
  • Summer school 0.23
  • School choice programs 0.12
School systems have lots of data and school leaders need to determine what truly matters. Answering what truly matters requires a clear vision for what schools are trying to create. Education leaders need to use data and research-based factors to determine the key strategic indicators that the district is trying to improve. These strategic indicators have to be clear statements about what the school or district will expect to achieve as a result of the strategy or action the school or district will take in order to improve.
The job is not finished when the strategic indicators and expected outcomes are determined. The district then needs to determine at the end of the strategy or action whether the expected outcome has been achieved. I believe the leader needs to use the statistical analysis of "effect size" to measure if the expected change has occurred. I have developed an administrator academy around this topic and will be advertising this academy in the coming weeks. If you are interested in hosting or attending this academy, please email me at rvoltz@iasaedu.org for more information.
Work-Life Balance
I lead an academy titled " Moving from Vision to Action: Learn How to Become an Essentialist." My focus in this academy is for the participant to examine his/her own life and work experiences and attempt to have balance. I had a very serious health scare three years ago and this scare resulted in a reorganization of my life goals.
When I first started thinking about work-life balance I concluded that my life was out of balance because I was spending way too much time at work and not near enough time on life. As my thoughts have evolved over time, I have come to the conclusion that the work "balance" does not mean equal. Most of you reading this newsletter are immersed in your careers and working hard to climb that tree of success. It would be condescending of someone my age (68) and in the twilight of my career to recommend to you that you work less and spend more time with "life."
In fact, I still do not have "balance" in my own life because the definition of balance does not mean equal. I still really enjoy work and work is very rewarding to me; thus, work does not have a negative connotation. I still love to go to work and I love to do the work that I do. Work is a large part of my life and I am glad that I still feel that I am valuable in my work.
The problem with work-life balance is that sometimes we do not take care of the "life" portions. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, " An estimated 97 million adults in the United States are overweight or obese. That figure represents more than 50% of the American adult population. Of this group, 11 million adults suffer from severe obesity."
I talk about personal health and fitness a lot in this academy. Many high-level professionals think they do not have enough time in the day to take care of their fitness needs. As I mentioned earlier, I love to work but I also take time to exercise. I discovered early in my education career that the best time to exercise is in the morning. Many teachers, coaches and administrators have after school and/or night activities. These interfere with an exercise schedule. The one time that is usually free is early morning. I have set my alarm for 5 am or earlier for over 55 years to exercise. This is the one time in the day when the only thing stopping exercise is the ability to get out of bed.
At the beginning of the year many people make New Year's resolutions to exercise, lose weight, lower blood pressure, etc. However, most never attain the goal because the goal does not become a habit. The key to realizing your goal is to develop a habit. It takes many successful consecutive performances to make the goal a habit. Make your new resolution to become fit. Set a goal to work out at least three days per week. Tell an important other (husband, wife, child, friend, co-worker) to check in with you weekly to see if you are meeting your goal. Make a scoreboard to record your progress and place this scoreboard in a prominent place (like taped to your bathroom mirror) so you see the results every day to remind you of your goal.
Remember balance is not equal but you do need to put effort into your life activities in order to be successful in life.
Do you use these three PLC questions when observing?
I recommend that teacher evaluators ask the following three critical Professional Learning Community (PLC) questions each time they observe teaching during either an informal or a formal observation:
  1. The PLC question is, "What do students need to know and be able to do?" I convert this question into the following and ask a minimum of three students, "What is the lesson goal?"
  2. The second PLC question is, "How will we know when they have learned it?" The converted student question is, "How will the teacher know you have learned it?"
  3. The third PLC question is, "What will we do when they haven't learned it?" The student question is, "What will the teacher do if you do not learn it?"
It is vital that all students know the learning goal. In my observations of classrooms, I keep data notes of what percentage of students knows the answer to the first question. Seventy to eighty percent of the time the students can generally tell me what they are learning that day. However, if the teacher has made it a practice to put the learning goal on display in the classroom, then 100% of the time the students will answer correctly by either reading the goal to me from the display or paraphrasing the goal in the students' own words.
Student answers to the second and third questions are far less successful. Often the students do not even know what I am asking. They seldom have been asked these questions before and have to think about the answer. Most students will refer to some type of summative assessment the teacher will give for the lesson or unit of instruction, but it is obvious they have not thought of this concept before I ask them.
Answers to the third question are very interesting. Students rarely say the teacher will keep working with the student to master the learning goal.
These questions can be very powerful tools for a teacher evaluator to use when conducting observations. I record each student answer and then have a reflective conversation with the teacher about the student answers. Imagine how these questions could drive your conversations with teachers and how teachers would change their communication with students if they know you will be asking students these questions.
Tip of the Week
As you progress in your career and in your life, remember that everything you do, every action you take, and every comment you make define your legacy in the eyes of others.
Prior to your regularly scheduled school board meetings, upload your school board agenda and item descriptions online to allow the community to be informed of school district business.

For more information, please contact:

Dr. Richard Voltz
Associate Director
Professional Development/Induction-Mentoring
2648 Beechler Court
Springfield, IL 62703
Follow me on Twitter at:  https://twitter.com/rvoltz