Data Walls and King Cakes

Chris CarusoLast week, TASC hosted a two-day convening of the schools in our ExpandED national demonstration. Over 50 leaders from New York City, Baltimore and New Orleans gathered in New York to learn from one another, to share challenges and success, and to establish accountability practices.

Note: ALWAYS make sure to invite the New Orleanians—they bring the party with them, as evident by the King Cakes that our friends from the Partnership for Youth Development had shipped to our office!

We had a series of thought provoking conversations, and we shared experiences across sectors that really brought to life ExpandED schools. School teams spoke about several different strategies for sharing accountability toward results including the use of data folders that are accessible to teachers and community educators and educating parents and caregivers on how standardized tests are used and scored.

A highlight of the convening was a visit to two ExpandED Schools in Manhattan, PS 188 on the Lower East Side and the Thurgood Marshall Lower Academy School (TMALS), in Harlem. On the visit to TMALS, I was struck by the “Data Wall” that was prominently displayed on the second floor of the school.

This public display of results illustrating where the school currently stands and where it aspires to be, coupled with the call to action for everyone who passes by (students, parents, teachers, and yes, even out-of-town visitors) was inspiring.

This, in my mind symbolizes true accountability. I was amazed when our fifth-grade host spoke about his “acuity”scores, about the steps the school was taking to improve their performance and how they all were working hard to be their best.

There is a heated national debate around school assessment and the role that test scores should play. Regardless of what measures a school community chooses to use—standardized tests, qualitative measures, or portfolios—I think every school would be benefit from having a data wall to inform and inspire.