Timelines are tricky. Change doesn’t happen along predictable, linear paths: it comes in fits and starts. That’s not even to mention the fact that short, intermediate and long-term change can look very different in both pace and behavior. Let’s explore how to build robust yet flexible calendars for data accountability:
TACKLING COMMON DATA ISSUES | PROBLEM 3
The data is collected too soon, before change can reasonably occur
With all our emphasis on formative evaluation and regular check-ups, we can sometimes lose sight of the need for patience. Professional learning is a bit like gardening: initiatives need time to take root before you can start counting the leaves. But scattering seeds in the ground and walking away for a few weeks won’t work either.
When you plant a tomato seed, you’re looking for strong stems and healthy green leaves long before you can expect to catch a peek of any baby tomatoes. Understanding exactly what you’re looking for in and of itself is a part of the process. The key to planning collection timelines is understanding how the change you’re attempting to implement will play out in the context of your real-life schedule.
Determining Collection Intervals
Let’s set aside the question of collection resources and school year calendars for the moment. You can adjust and realign your plan in later steps, but first, answer these questions as though you were living in the ideal world:
How far into the future can I reasonably predict an effect?
The answer to this question will vary depending on the type of PD implemented, the specific metric you’re working with, and the ultimate goal of your program. Defining short-, middle-, and long-term outcomes is a key part of any program development; the farthest-away prediction you can reasonably expect is your long-term outcome.
But the short- and middle-term outcomes aren’t miniaturized versions of the long-term ones. If you’re seeking to improve student achievement through increased instructional rigor, you may not see even modest gains in achievement for months as teachers learn to implement the new curriculum with fidelity. During those months, instead, you should be looking for instructional outcomes — the healthy shoots and budding leaves that indicate your achievement tomatoes are on the way.
Bear in mind that depending on your program’s structure, these may break down in a few different ways: by affected party (educators, systems or students), by pure timeframe (your educators in one week, in one semester, in one year) or — our favorite — by KASAB level.