Small Data

I’m beginning to truly believe that our obsession with “data driven decision making” will end one day. I used the term the other day and I felt like I was saying something outdated, like “paradigm shift” or “Michelle Rhee”. It just felt…old school.

I’ve never been a huge fan of the belief that important decisions in schools need to be “driven” by anything other than a deep understanding of who students are as people and how they best learn. No growth model has ever helped me understand how to more effectively teach a particular student. That knowledge has come from a much more complicated process known, in some circles, as a conversation.

So in the hopes that our national obsession with numbers, graphs, statistics, and linear modeling will eventually come to an end, I’m gearing up for that day by zooming in on some “small data”.

The other day, an admissions officer from the University of Arizona came to visit with my seniors. There were 42 students in all that heard the presentation. Here are the stats:

•students who will be first in their family to attend a four-year university who sat in the front row asking questions: 11%

•students who realized, for the first time in their lives, that they would be able to attend college even if their parents had no money: 35%

•the amount of value added to my job satisfaction from watching Robert as he sat listening to the presentation with stars in his eyes as he realized that his life was going to be much different from the life that his parents have had: impossible to measure.

I hope that one day soon we will all be able to celebrate these kinds of accomplishments not in addition to the graphs, but instead of them.



Eve Rifkin

Eve Rifkin

Tucson, Arizona

I have been an educator for over 20 years. As a founding co-director of City High School, I have held a variety of leadership and teaching roles, including academic director, humanities teacher, and principal. I am currently the Director of College Access and support students as they envision their lives after high school.

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