Deciding with Data

By Douglas B. Reeves

The subject of this column is “decision-based data-making.” This is not a misprint.

Educational leaders and policymakers pride themselves on “data-based decision-making,” but discerning school board members must evaluate carefully which came first -- the data or the decision. With that, I’d like for us to consider different levels of claims that you likely will encounter and provide some of the most recent and best sources of educational research.

Level 1: ‘I believe it’

Education policy discussions are rife with Level 1 claims. Silicon Valley entrepreneur James Barksdale was fond of saying, “Everybody’s entitled to their own opinion; they’re just not entitled to their own facts.” Often, policymakers must listen to sincerely held beliefs about the virtues of corporal punishment or claims that children will learn to read and write by coloring, but we need not confuse respectful listening with acknowledgement of a fact. 

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