The past couple decades have seen an increase in an interest in data and its use—indeed, Google searches for “Analytics” are 6.5 times what they were in 2004, and the term “Big Data” only started appearing en masse in searches around 2010. While data analysis can be very powerful, to many, data is still unapproachable and tends to over-generalize its findings. This is why context around data is as important as the data analysis it informs, and it is usually why an analysis can miss the mark.
This is the case especially in education. Regardless of a child’s age, differences in development, personal life, and learning styles abound, making general statements a very precarious undertaking. If I told you that students from lower income backgrounds tend to perform worse academically, one might think that individuals with less money simply do worse in school. In reality, however, this speaks nothing about the individual, rather it speaks to factors associated with lower incomes that might cause a student to do worse in school—like poor nutrition, inability to attend school on a regular basis due to varying reasons, or a host of other circumstantial influences.
In order to address this, Building Our Future has created data teams comprised of professionals that work specifically with and for each of our educational networks. These four work teams focus on developing systems around data use to advance Building Our Future’s vision within the areas of kindergarten readiness (the Smart Beginnings Network), Early Grade Reading, Community Engagement, and, the newest network area, High School Completion, Postsecondary Success, and Career Readiness. Meeting for an hour each month, they discuss the appropriate use of data to support what professionals in the field are doing and create analytics to guide their strategy.
Data is the way of the future—there’s no doubting that. It’s power, though, cannot be understated, nor can it be used lightly. In working together, Kenosha County can affect the systems and language around its data to make the outcomes of our children better and more equitable for years to come.
Ways to Get Involved: