Tuesday, August 2, 2016

What's in a Number?

Numbers are in every part of our daily life, daily routine, and in and around each and every one of
our own worlds.  Numbers are only important to the extent that have any meaning.

I can think of some numbers that affected me throughout my own personal and professional life.  The numbers really did not directly affect me, but the message behind the numbers made a difference to my life.  For example, the numbers 280 and 27 mean nothing without my explanation that those numbers indicate my total cholesterol number at age 27.  I had to react to the meaning behind those numbers and make some changes in diet, exercise and medication.

Our theme for this school year is "We are relationship driven," and this stems from our big emphasis on being "Improvement Driven," (our mission) and the means to get there is through being "Data Driven."

What does this all mean?  We want to know every reliable and relevant indicator of student learning, academic growth and progress.  We want to know exactly how each student in our district is doing, and we want to know every piece of information that tells us how they are doing.  With that information we can do a much better job of intervening and providing more support when we know immediately if our students are not growing.

Therefore, we are placing a huge importance on numbers that represent the most important element in our district: our kids!  And, that importance is only manifest if we understand each and every number that is relevant to our students' learning.  Learning is extremely important because our students are extremely important.  When the right numbers have meaning, we now understand we have to have an urgency to know, understand and respond to how our kids are doing, and how we can ensure they continue to thrive.

I am reminded of the story of what some people famously call the "Starfish Story."

A young man is walking along the ocean and sees a beach on which thousands and thousands of starfish have washed ashore. Further along he sees an old man, walking slowly and stooping often, picking up one starfish after another and tossing each one gently into the ocean.
“Why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?,” he asks.
“Because the sun is up and the tide is going out and if I don’t throw them further in they will die.”
“But, old man, don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it! You can’t possibly save them all, you can’t even save one-tenth of them. In fact, even if you work all day, your efforts won’t make any difference at all.”
The old man listened calmly and then bent down to pick up another starfish and threw it into the sea. “It made a difference to that one.”

What's in a number?  The meaning that makes the difference to each and everyone!

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