Data driven decision-making is a guiding principle of the Itasca Area Initiative for Student Success and for similar large-scale initiatives that are members of the Strive National Network. With the tsunami of data out there, the challenge becomes identifying which data to use, and for what purpose.

The Student Success data team has wrestled with this, particularly with how to best use data collected via the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA) results. While, this accountability data is easy to access, its reliability is less clear.

Matt Grose, Superintendent for Deer River Schools, has been active with the Itasca Area Initiative for Student Success since the work began. He currently serves as a member of the Governance Council.

An advocate for data-driven decision-making. Matt’s recent letter to the editor in the Grand Rapids Herald-Review highlights just a few of the challenges and costs to both collecting and using the MCA data:

Neither I nor my staff fear accountability. In fact, my teachers hold themselves to higher standards of care than any test could measure. I would argue, however, that spending $33.8 million on testing isn’t being accountable with our money as a state. I would argue that having 5th graders take tests in Reading, Math, and Science within the same testing season isn’t being accountable to them or their parents. I would argue that testing every child when we could use scientific sampling to measure school progress isn’t being accountable to intelligent use of time. I would argue that having to suspend teaching, cancel field trips, and reserve most of April for testing isn’t being accountable to our responsibility to provide learning opportunities.

Informed by work with the Search Institute, the Student Success initiative sees data as valuable beyond merely accountability. It can – and should – motivate broad-based community action that brings to life the Pathway and supports continuous improvement toward those shared goals. The Student Success data team has learned through its work that school accountability data like the MCAs does little to motivate the broad-based community action we believe is crucial to supporting our young people in all areas of their life.

As the initiative works with local educators, we will continually advocate for data driven decision-making that brings us together in support of our young people.