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Marketing Viewpoint by Ruth Winett

Educations' Failure with Data Collection - A Lesson for Businesses

A teacher I know estimated that her school lost three weeks of instructional time--or nine percent of the school year--to testing, with no gains in student success. Her frustrated colleagues now say, "no child left un-tested," not "no child left behind."

Because of the emphasis on testing, some students are so stressed that they don't want to go to school. And, testing imposes a financial burden on school systems. Testing is a time-sink for administrators who spend weeks learning how to administer tests and prevent cheating. Moreover, testing only shows whether or not a student can read or calculate at grade level. It does not indicate why some students fall short or what teachers could do about the shortfall. To improve student outcomes, schools should be spending as much effort helping teachers find ways to improve outcomes as they do on testing, asserts Simon Rodberg in the Harvard Business Review.

Data Collection Is Just the Beginning

Besides schools, businesses, healthcare institutions, and government agencies collect data--the more the better. Unfortunately, many organizations lose sight of their original objectives--identifying problems and finding solutions to problems, such as customer attrition, lack of growth, or growing staff disaffection. Organizations spend so much time setting up processes, collecting data, and analyzing results that no time or money remains for taking corrective actions.

For years school systems believed that testing would lead to student success. Rodberg's HBR article recommends that schools not stop with testing but that they work with teachers to improve educational outcomes. For other organizations this means collecting the right data, analyzing it, looking for root causes of problems, developing solutions (strategies), and then forming action plans (tactics) for implementing solutions.

Gathering and using data requires a thoughtful approach. In businesses this means deciding what data to collect and why and then following data collection with a comprehensive examination of methods for analyzing the results and identifying the causes of problems. Then comes a search for potential solutions and the development of action plans. Both managers and staff may need additional training to do this. As is true in education, businesses must not only fund data collection but also support corrective actions that lead to real change.

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Copyright © 2/19 Ruth Winett. All rights reserved.


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