Who is Driving the Uncommon Data?

Data driven practices and techniques are the source of inquiry, research and observation for Doug Lemov’s ‘Teach Like a Champion 2.0‘, (2015, Josey-Bass™).  How were 62 techniques, ‘That Put Students on the Path to College’ discovered and developed?  The source and wellspring of these teaching strategies were derived and revised through years of classroom observation, actual teachers in action.  The introduction of this book establishes a relatively clear description of the who? and where? of which data were selected to follow, which teachers to observe and in what schools the observations, upon which the techniques were formulated.index http://www.uncommonschools.org/

Assuming that high student achievement is a result of high teaching standards and practices, Lemov, beginning in 2011, began to isolate “positive outliers” using data resulting from NY state assessment results; which can be controlled, via district for poverty.  Keeping in mind that Doug Lemov works for Uncommon Schools, his ideal goal is to eradicate the achcievement gap which is a common denominator for students from low income families.  Plotting the student poverty rate (% of students FRPL Eligible) with the % of students proficient on state assessments, Lemov identified those schools with a high percentage of low income students and high levels of proficiency; in others words, schools that were beating the odds.  Referring to the graph below, based on the Math results from 2011 NY State Assessments, Lemov indicates with circle a typical “positive outlier’; in effect, schools appearing in the upper right hand corner of the graph would be ideal targets for research and observation.


from slide presentation: “Where are all the Superheros? :

Initial data derived from state assessment scores was the primary source for Lemov’s quest to find better teachers.  He also identifies school administrator’s and the next level of data inquiry and refinement, considering the principals’ input and suggestions towards “sourcing” highly effective teachers; stating that great teachers, “…are pretty reliably identifiable by effective administrators.”¹, (p.17).  To me, this is a perhaps slightly more subjective means of identifying highly effective teachers, but I do believe there is strong correlation between solid administration (building specific) and solid hiring processes.

Doug Lemov’s ideals toward the writing of ‘Teach Like a Champion 2.0¹’ and to train and establish great teachers in urban low income communities was inspired by Jim Collins’s observations in Built to Last and more importantly, Good to Great.  Mainly, “…what separates great from good matters more than mere competence…”;  Lemov asks himself if it is possible to map trends of excellence (in teaching) or is excellence “…idiosyncratic and unmappable?”. (p.3).  Keeping in mind that Collins’s theories relate to the business world; possibly the next biggest social and economic issue in the next decade is whether or not to pursue the business model in Education; certainly, in my opinion, a very interesting component of the charter school model.   And, that is, organization, (Uncommon Schools), for whom the author is employed.  index

A more liberal, less business minded text that I read in the process of becoming initially certified as a teacher, was Johnathan Kozol’s ‘Savage Inequalities‘, 1991.  An eye-opening precursor to the ever expanding “achievment gap” so prevelent for low-income students and students of color.   As an educator in northern New England, I would again bring up the reality of poverty in rural impoverished communities and its correlation to poor academic achievement.  Rural areas, depleted in resources, our focus here being education, perhaps, are effected by a limited or an inadequate pool of well trained, inspired, effective teachers.  Poverty effects all demographics.

Doug Lemov’s 62 techniques are ideal for addressing all schools; especially, those schools in which poverty is a very real issue.  The techniques delineated in his book do not require and fiscal commitment nor expensive professional development nor any investment in compatible software or materials.


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