Initially, I had a negative reaction to Jeff Edmundson's discussion of tracking student data because it strikes me as over the line on the privacy front, something we really need to pay attention to (Edmundson, 2010). After thinking about how best to collaborate with other teachers about student needs I came back to the idea of information data tracking. I now feel like I can support the idea with a few caveats, which I will address at the end.
I think having a professional learning community (PLC) in the school is pretty common sense. There should be inquiry into "best practices in teaching and best practices in learning" (DuFour, 2006). We should always be trying to better our perfomance with the focus on transferring knowledge, not just on conveying it in class. Learning is the responsibility of a teacher, not just teaching - ironically. In order to have effective PLC collaboration, it would be helpful to gather data to share and confer over in groups. This is where I came around on the data collecting of students. It can be like a medical chart (with similar protections - see caveats later). One thing that can help is to have a special teacher that observes classes and can help collect data or advise teachers on how to collect data and what kinds of data will be effective to collect. "A particular feature of the Finnish system is the “special teacher.” This is a specially trained teacher assigned to each school whose role is to work with class teachers to identify students needing extra help, and then work individually or in small groups with these students to provide the support they need to keep up with their classmates" (OECD, 2013). This will, of course, change the structure of teachers, but perhaps instead of having one person always do it, it can be a shared responsibility for teachers on a rotating basis. This can help, in the same way we implement this with students, form better autonomy and motivation for teachers as they are being more involved with the entire school outside their own doors.
The concerns I have, my caveats for support of data collecting, are that we need to protect the privacy of the students, parents, and teachers in all of this. If we can control who has access to the data and allow the parents or legal guadians to approve of the use of the data, then I would be more comfortable with the idea. We already collect data on the students, but to broaden the information, we might need certain special permissions. For example, to add socio-economic standing or certain family background information. The information gathered in the class is generally acceptable, but anything that involves getting information from outside the school would be where I would have my reservations. But, if the privacy is protected and approval was needed by parents or guardians for the use of the data, then I would support this idea. Having a chart of the child's information would help show trends of behavior or academics more effectively and help teachers assess each child in the PLC collaboration. This would help the children. "Working together to build shared knowledge on the best way to achieve goals and meet the needs of clients is exactly what professionals in any field are expected to do, whether it is curing the patient, winning the lawsuit, or helping all students learn. Members of a professional learning community are expected to work and learn together" (DuFour, 2006). Everywhere we go we are seeing more data collection on how employees and employers are performing, so why not the education industry? I understand it goes against the tradition of having a teacher run their 'domain' inside their classroom, but that method has been failing us in the past few decades. Perhaps it is time to stop the Sisyphean expectations of teachers being lone heroes and start working more collaboratively and with more focus on generating a better overall environment for the students to learn in. This can be achieved with a more open and collaborative school and/or district. I would support the PLC idea, or something similar, for creating that environment.
DuFour, R., DuFour, R., Eaker, R., & Many, T. (2006). Learning by Doing: A Handbook for Professional Learning Communities at Work™, pp. 2–4. Retrieved from http://www.allthingsplc.info/about/aboutPLC.php
Edmundson, J. (2010, November). TEDx Talks - Jeff Edmundson - The key to educational improvement: data and how we use it. [Wed Video]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FLqc_9VxfCE
OECD. (2013). Finland. Strong performers and successful reformers in education. Pearson Foundation. Retrieved from http://www.pearsonfoundation.org/oecd/finland.html