Data! Get Your Red Hot Data!

calc screencap , this is a spreadsheet screenc...
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Data is the new snake oil.

Look this over carefully folks. Come up close so you can see with your own eyes, hear with your own ears, every sight, every sound, of this demonstration.

This is the answer to all your problems.

This is the the way to answer your critics and change them into your champions,

to garner headlines and Major, I say MAJOR Race for the Top federal funding.

This is the stuff you need.




Image by bootload via Flickr


Yesiree! This Gen-U-WINE date can cure all your teaching ills.

Every single one. All of them.


You say your students are falling behind others?

Have you tried data? No? Well lookee here…

This data doesn’t just give you test scores, it doesn’t only give you short-term score trends, this data gives you…

Wait for it folks….

Data Model Template - Excel spreadsheet
Image by Ivan Walsh via Flickr


That’s right! Intimate details about every question asked, every answer given, laid out to two-decimal-place precision.

I know.

But wait, there’s more!

This data come as raw numbers, it comes in scatter plots, it comes as histograms, and, hold your breath, be still my beating heart….

It comes as bar graphs and pie charts in

Not one…

Not two…

Three sets of data plotted using pie charts an...
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Not three or four… 

This data comes in five; count them five colors on every bar graph and pie chart.

No extra charge

Yes, you heard it right, all this…

The numbers, the histograms, the scatter charts, the pie charts,

Did I forget to mention the stem & leaf arrays? Yes I did,

So, you get the numbers, the scatter charts, the histograms, the pie charts, the bar graphs, AND the stem & leaf arrays for one low price.

Look at it. Look at it carefully. This data is the answer to all your Ed-you-KAAAAY-shun issues.

Students not doing well? Teachers not teaching well? Or was the test just too darn hard?

Don’t know? LOOK AT THE DATA! Its all there, all laid out for you in five eye-catching colors!

But wait, there’s still more!

Along with every set of full-color data displayed six, count them, 1,2,3,4,5,6, SIX ways we’ll include this handy chart that teaches you and your teachers how to manipulate the data to show whatever you want it to!

You can show gains, you can show big gains, or anything you want just by using this handy, chart.

So let me give lay out the whole package for you ladies and gentlemen. Let me tell you all you get at one time in one package:

you get the numbers,

scatter charts,


A plot showing a regular and a cumulative hist...
Image via Wikipedia

bar graphs

pie charts

AND leaf & stem arrays –

all of it for every student, class, teacher and sub-group –

PLUS the handy chart that tells you how to make it show anything you need it to….

All for one easy to swallow price.

Now, you look at all this and I bet you’re telling yourself, ‘this all looks and sounds great, but where am I going to put all this data?’

You look at this and think it must come in a bunch of boxes, enough to fill a storeroom, maybe enough to fill a warehouse.

Ladies and gentlemen, what will you say when I tell you that everything I’ve mentioned,

every number,

every chart,

every graph,

all of it in five colors, broken-out and aggregated any way you want it;

all that, PLUS the nifty chart showing you how to massage the numbers…fits on this one, little, flat DVD.

The image shows a comparison in size of a Dixo...

Image via Wikipedia

Yes, folks, its all on here.

And even with all that stuff squeezed onto this DVD, even as FAT with information is it, its still sharp enough to slice this tomato, to scale this fish, and you never have to sharpen it or worry about it losing one byte of information.


Image by Mat Honan via Flickr

I know. It sounds too good to be true. That you must be dreaming…

Don’t hesitate!

Don’t be left out!

Bannack Days 2008-snake oil
Image by virtualreality via Flickr

Don’t be the last one on the bus!

Call right now!

Here’s how to order….

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17 Responses to Data! Get Your Red Hot Data!

  1. Syd says:

    This is hysterical, especially since our in-service today was all about the snake oil.

    (a must-share)

  2. Hadass Eviatar says:

    I am SO GRATEFUL Manitoba has not jumped on the data bandwagon …

  3. bethfriese says:

    I dreaded taking statistics last year, but the one thing it showed me is that these data are often piled on assumptions and can be made to say nearly anything. What’s sad is that, since its “data” it’s seen as true. Great post, especially the tone.

  4. Susie says:

    You are so right! And how about when lots of the data isn’t even authentic or valid to begin with! How about this: our department meetings have to change (so we’ve been told by outside consultants). Sorry, no more sharing of best practices and effective ways to approach upcoming topics. NO!! You’ve got to spend at least the first 40 minutes on— data!

  5. As my HS debate coach said, “If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bulls**t.” Seems to me that this data-is-everything cult is trying to cloud the issue with statistics. Statistics (and data) can be used to justify anything. Statistics and data without context and transparency is meaningless. I think this every time my principal hands us our test scores from the state with no explanatory information on exactly what the kids are having trouble with. Now we are asked to input all of our “common assessments” into Pearson Benchmark so we can see how an individual student does on a given standard. This is nuts. What does this tell me about a student blows off a test or exam? Absolutely nothing. As the old saying goes – There are liars. There are damn liars, and then there are statisticians.

  6. Elyse says:

    Very funny — and I would LOL if I weren’t also so sad about the truth of it.

  7. Jennifer says:

    Agreeing that some schools are getting a little data crazy, it would see to be just as “snake-oily” to discount all data. If you aren’t using data to make educational decisions, what are you using? Telepathy? The assumption in my statement is that data are more than numbers. The danger isn’t in relying on data, it’s in discounting data that aren’t numerical in nature. Educators have been using data since the beginning of time and will continue to do so. It’s only recently that the focus has been on quantitative or “hard” (shudder) data. It seems more reasonable for educators to out our energy in bringing different types of data to the table rather than discounting all data.

    • Deven Black says:

      Of course some data is useful, but there seems to be a belief, pushed by the President, the Secretary of Education and others down the line, that data alone will help teachers teach better.

      Classroom resources, field trips, arts and physical education are being cut while more and more money is being put into the processes of data generation, data collection, and data analysis. More and more time is spent planning assessments to generate more data and analyzing the data that results. All this time is taken away from the little time teachers are given to collaborate in planning lessons and units or sharing best practices.

      While some data is useful, much of it is based on faulty assumptions, inadequate forms of assessment and badly written assessments. Teachers are being handed both good and bad data and being told to use it without being trained in how to assess the quality or meaning of the data they’re given.

      The people pushing data as the prime driving force behind improving teaching and learning are data wonks who do not know the students, understand teaching or what happens in schools and classrooms, while the teachers given the data do know the students and need resources to help those students learn but are not sufficiently trained in statistics or datat analysis to make the data truly useful.

      In short, its not looking at data per se that is objectionable; it is the over emphasis on data use and over-reliance on much of it as guiding forces in teaching that dismays me.

  8. Sam says:


  9. Ms. Speducator says:

    Thank you for making my therapy team and I ROTF this morning. It was a much needed dose of humor about a process our program has been driving us nuts over. I am a subscriber and frequent lurker but I just had to come out and say KUDOS!

  10. iageode says:

    I just spent all afternoon in a PD where we were dazzled with data like this that was totally pointless and meaningless. Thank you for this well written, humorous, and sadly accurate post. I am adding your blog to my google reader.

  11. Deb says:

    Thanks for this. Check out Margaret Wheatley’s description of how we tend to use information/data – in her book A Simpler Way (scroll to the 2nd paragraph of p. 26 here ). I particularly like her last sentence: “They don’t ask us to notice what learning is availabel from all those things we decided NOT to measure.”

  12. Tamra Lanning says:

    I hope that data analysis is not being used in many systems in such a haphazard manner. I was a classroom teacher for 7 years. This year, I was asked this year to take a data analysis position at my elementary school. I was hesitant to leave the classroom, but felt that this position was much needed in our school.
    My job is to evaluate our current assessments based on written research and our own experiences. I then analyze the data, create reports and share them with the teachers. We work together to formulate plans for meeting the needs of struggling students. I organize grade level meetings where we share ideas and discuss the importance of meeting the students where they are based on the data that we have gathered. Unfortunately, some teachers have fallen into a habit of teaching from front to back in the textbooks. To me, the data helps minimize this problem. I emphasize that they should use the data gathered to drive their instruction rather than what page they are on in the book. I spend the time that I am not doing PD with my teachers reading and researching best practices to share with them at every possible opportunity.
    I am one of those “people pushing data”. There are phenomenal resources out there that can help us diagnose problems and intervene before the students get too far behind. I disagree with much of what the President and Secretary of Education are trying to do with the race funds as well, but I think it is a mistake to stereotype the entire data gathering process as ineffective.

    • Deven Black says:

      Clearly there is some value to looking at some data and using that information to better direct teaching efforts. I am on my school’s inquiry team and that is what we try to do, too. Despite that, I am deeply skeptical about the validity of much of the data I see, skeptical about our ability to competently interpret what it means, and skeptical about the teaching that results from these efforts.

      There is far too much emphasis on data and too little emphasis on talking with children, listening to them, watching them and immediately providing support where it is needed.

      There is also a clear difference between a quick, targeted, rapidly scored assessment and the data it provides, and the annual state or city exams that take weeks or months to score. The data gathered from those exams are worthless in terms of targeting teaching and serve only to provide more fodder for politicians so they can excoriate teachers and pin laurels on themselves.

  13. Tamra Lanning says:

    I absolutely agree with your last paragraph. I also believe that ultimately no matter how much data and resources I provide for the teachers, it ultimately comes down to the efficiency and attitude of the teachers teaching those kids. Thanks for the conversation! 🙂

  14. Ila says:

    An outstanding share! I’ve just forwarded this onto a friend who has been doing
    a little research on this. And he actually bought me lunch due to the fact that I
    stumbled upon it for him… lol. So allow me to reword this….
    Thank YOU for the meal!! But yeah, thanx for spending some
    time to discuss this subject here on your website.

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