The Data Wall Debate Gets Real

The article I did on data walls yesterday is stimulating a great deal of conversation.  I think that is awesome.  Something like this should be talked about.  There seems to be two general sides: those who feel data walls shame struggling students and those who think this will scar children by taking away these components of education.  One person on a Facebook group said we are turning kids into wussies and our country will go down the toilet.  Others feel it is a waste of a teacher’s time and energy.  Both sides have some valid arguments, but I want to make a few things clear.

The pictures in the article were not taken by me.  They were also intentionally blurry because student pictures are on the wall.  I can’t really argue for data privacy while putting up hundreds  of kids pictures up so anyone can see them.  This was an academic data wall with three colors ranging from a bottom red to a top green.

I haven’t heard back from any of the Delaware superintendents or charter leaders.  But I have heard from tens of thousands of teachers, in Delaware, the USA and even countries like New Zealand, Germany, and Japan.  I found out states like Oregon have laws specifically banning data walls.  The vast majority of teachers, well over 95%, are against these data walls.  Most of them are required to do it and the mandates are serious.  I will be exploring this topic much more in the coming weeks.  In the meantime, I stand ready to start filing FERPA violations on Thursday night if I am not taken seriously.  Let’s keep this conversation going.  It is important.

There were no data walls when I was a kid.  My child never experienced data walls like this.  So this is very new to me.

“What Kind Of A Sick School Is This?”

“The Data Walls Must Come Down”: My Email To All Delaware Superintendents & Charter Chiefs

When I say I am going to do something, I mean it.  Therefore, in response to my article about the atrocious data walls in Delaware schools I just emailed every single Delaware Superintendent and Charter Chief.  I will be emailing each district or charter school’s board of education as well and ask them to bring forth policy to eliminate these walls of shame.  To echo the departed President Ronald Reagan: “Delaware schools, tear down these data walls!” Like I did last year when I emailed all of them about opt out ignorance in Delaware schools, I am posting the email to this blog:

Kevin Ohlandt <kevino3670@yahoo.com>
To: Burrows Matthew L. <matthew.burrows@appo.k12.de.us>; Holodick Mark <mark.holodick@bsd.k12.de.us>; Fitzgerald Kevin (K12) <kevin.fitzgerald@cr.k12.de.us>; Fulton Robert <robert.fulton@cape.k12.de.us>; Shelton Dan <dan.shelton@capital.k12.de.us>; ANDRZEJEWSKI ROBERT <robert.andrzejewski@christina.k12.de.us>; Blakey Dolan (K12) <dolan.blakey@colonial.k12.de.us>; Phillips Charity <charity.phillips@delmar.k12.de.us>; “susan.bunting@irsd.k12.de.us” <susan.bunting@irsd.k12.de.us>; “bgwynder@lf.k12.de.us” <bgwynder@lf.k12.de.us>; “shawn.larrimore@laurel.k12.de.us” <shawn.larrimore@laurel.k12.de.us>; Phyllis Kohel <pkohel@msd.k12.de.us>; Gehrt Vicki (K12) <vicki.gehrt@nccvt.k12.de.us>; Zych Deborah (K12) <deborah.zych@polytech.k12.de.us>; Daugherty Mervin B. <mervin.daugherty@redclay.k12.de.us>; Marshall Cheri <cheri.marshall@aod.k12.de.us>; “mark.phelps@academia.k12.de.us” <mark.phelps@academia.k12.de.us>; “margie.lopezwaite@laaa.k12.de.us” <margie.lopezwaite@laaa.k12.de.us>; Catherine Balsley <catherine.balsley@ccs.k12.de.us>; “spaoli@charterschool.org” <spaoli@charterschool.org>; “sandra.wilson-hypes@dapss.k12.de.us” <sandra.wilson-hypes@dapss.k12.de.us>; “Angela.Dennis@dcpa.k12.de.us” <angela.dennis@dcpa.k12.de.us>; “calvarez@design-labschools.org” <calvarez@design-labschools.org>; “anthony.pullela@dma.k12.de.us” <anthony.pullela@dma.k12.de.us>; Lamont Browne <lamont.browne@escs.k12.de.us>; “evelyn.edney@echs.k12.de.us” <evelyn.edney@echs.k12.de.us>; “rachel.valentin@ffa.k12.de.us” <rachel.valentin@ffa.k12.de.us>; Patrick Gallucci <patrick.gallucci@fsmilitary.k12.de.us>; “felicia.wennell@Freirecharterschool.org” <felicia.wennell@Freirecharterschool.org>; “tim.griffiths@gls.k12.de.us” <tim.griffiths@gls.k12.de.us>; “kchilds@greatoakscharter.org” <kchilds@greatoakscharter.org>; “smaldonado@kuumba.k12.de.us” <smaldonado@kuumba.k12.de.us>; “courtney.fox@fsma.k12.de.us” <courtney.fox@fsma.k12.de.us>; Linda Jennings <linda.jennings@mot.k12.de.us>; Meece Gregory <gregory.meece@ncs.k12.de.us>; Nick Manolakos <nick.manolakos@odyssey.k12.de.us>; “ed.emmett@pocs.k12.de.us” <ed.emmett@pocs.k12.de.us>; “cordie.greenlea@pa.k12.de.us” <cordie.greenlea@pa.k12.de.us>; Chuck Taylor <chuck.taylor@pca.k12.de.us>; “patricia.oliphant@saas.k12.de.us” <patricia.oliphant@saas.k12.de.us>; “Salome.Thomas-EL@tecs.k12.de.us” <salome.thomas-el@tecs.k12.de.us>

Sunday, May 22, 2016 9:09 PM

Good evening Delaware Superintendents and Charter Chiefs,

The last time I wrote most of you in unison like this was in regards to parent opt out last year when some of you were giving parents a hard time about making a choice for their child.  Today I write to you in regards to data walls in some of your schools.  While I recognize this may not even apply to some of you, I felt it was fair to include everyone to make myself very clear.

Any data wall showing any type of progress by a child compared to others, whether in the classroom, outside of the classroom, in a hallway, in the school lobby, or on any type of system (including a computer system) where even students can see how they rate against their peers is morally and ethically wrong.  Some schools post the names of students and I have seen pictures of students on some.  This needs to stop, right here, right now.  Those of you who are participating in this: do you have any clue what that does to a child?  Especially the ones who rate the lowest all the time.  Do you know what that does to a child’s self-confidence?  You could be comparing someone with an iq of 75 iq to a person with an iq of 125.  In what possible way are any of you okay with this?  Not to mention the potential FERPA violations with some of these.

Therefore, I request that all Delaware public schools take down their data walls by this Thursday, May 26th.  If they aren’t down, I will file FERPA violations as soon as I am possibly able if student data walls remain in any of your schools.  And I will file for each school.  I have a host of teachers and parents backing me on this.  I don’t care if this is a part of a focus or priority school plan, if you are in the Leader In Me program, or whatever reason you feel this is a good idea.  I don’t care if the DOE tells you to ignore me, or even US DOE.

I’m shocked it took me until now to find out about these things.  What has education come down to when we are doing this to kids?  And I don’t want to hear anything about competition and how it is good for kids.  It is not.  It is damaging and reprehensible.  For those who support this, you really need to be ashamed of yourself.  If you aren’t aware any of your schools are doing this, I would strongly recommend checking with each and every one of them to be sure because you better believe whether you know about it or not I will be filing a complaint if these aren’t gone by the end of the day on Thursday.

This madness in our education has to stop.  All of you run schools or districts and you have the power to put an end to this absolute insanity happening in our schools.  Why don’t any of you stand up to the DOE?  Why do so many of you kiss their ass constantly?  I see a lot of you do it and it makes me sick to my stomach.  You embrace the very things that are destroying public education.  Most of you are making a ton of money already.  But every time you pay for some vendor the DOE recommends, or sign up for the latest craze in education (flavor of the month: BRINC), you are getting one step closer to the end of what you are supposed to represent.  These are kids.  They aren’t remote control mechanisms you can control.  You can’t force a child to be more than they can endure.  Note I did not say capable, but what they can endure.  I believe every child is capable if it based on a modicum of reason and good instruction.  What is forced on our teachers is not.  Especially with these walls of shame.

I know some of you agree with me on this, but for those that do but still sing the song the DOE sings, please ask yourself why.  And don’t tell me it is for survival.  It is for power, and money.  If we haven’t learned this lesson in Delaware yet after the past twenty-five years, no one is fooled.  Many of you I have rubbed the wrong way many times.  I get that, and I completely understand if you dislike me.  But I’m not sending this out to stroke my own ego.  It’s because of children.  And parents, teachers, and those who care about education.  When we have lost the one thing that really matters, the heart of the student, then we have lost Delaware’s future.  And data walls are guaranteed to do that.  I don’t care if you have used them for the past 15 years or the past week.  They need to stop.

I will be emailing all of your boards throughout the week and I will be asking them to create policies forbidding data walls in all of your schools.  I’m sure some of the walls are beautiful and great works of art.  But the heart and self-confidence of a child are the most beautiful and the greatest work of art ever created.  If even one student feels shame from these data walls, that is one too many.

As always, in the vein of transparency, I will be posting this email to Exceptional Delaware.  Please share this with the principals of all your schools and anyone who you feel would benefit from this.

Thank you,

Kevin Ohlandt

Delaware Public Schools: You Have Until Thursday To Get Rid Of Your Data Walls Or I Start Filing FERPA Complaints

I will be emailing all Delaware Superintendents, Heads of School, and the DOE on this tomorrow, but I wanted to put it out there now.  If any of you have ANY data walls with kid’s names on them or anything that could make a student easily identifiable by the peers in their class, you have until the end of the day on Thursday to get rid of them.  If you don’t, I will start filing FERPA complaints against each and every one of the schools that ignore this.  I don’t mean to play hard ball here, but you are violating the most sacrosanct part of education, the rights of the child.

I highly recommend ALL Delaware parents contact their schools and ask if they have these data walls in their child’s school.  I also suggest they ask the principal or assistant principal to make sure their child IS NOT ON IT.  I don’t care if you think your kid is the next Einstein.  It is wrong to do this.  I don’t care if it is the best charter school, magnet school, or regular school out there.  It is a violation.

DataWalls2

If you want to kill a child’s self-esteem, there is no easier way to do it than data walls.  This latest disgusting and sick craze of schools is an actual posting in school hallways or a classroom of a child’s progress.  Whoever thought this was a good idea is one sick individual.  I’m sure it is great for the smart kids who are always on top.  But for those who struggle it is a demeaning and humiliating experience.  For priority schools in Delaware, this is a requirement.  From the minds of those with no soul in the education reform world who don’t give a crap about children and their needs.  For students with disabilities, this is just the latest smack on their beaten faces.

DataWalls

This morning on Facebook, the current president of the Red Clay Education Association brought this up, as well as the growing in popularity E.R. Educators to the Rescue page.

ER wrote:

I call these “Data-shaming Walls”. I hate them (yes, hate) and here’s why you should too. In an age of anti-bullying, this is an in-your-face way of shaming low-performers and their parents. The only folks that like these are parents whose children are the green or advanced levels; everyone else feels like crap. If you see one in your child’s school, please ask the teacher/administrator to take them down.

The Washington Post thinks these are an abomination whereas the mighty Scholastic thinks they are the greatest thing since white bread.

Mike Matthews said:

My unfiltered definition of what a data wall is? It’s a tool used to shame and bully students into making them do better. Under the guise of competition, someone who’s in the “red” will just magically, one day, decide to change his or her performance to get into the “yellow” or “green.”

For some students this will work. Fine. But for others, like the many children with special needs I’ve taught over the years, this will not work and will continue to be a demotivator and could cause unnecessary emotional harm.

Last year at (x school) I had a young lady who came from the (y school). She was profoundly low. Many of the other students knew it, but we’re always very welcoming and supportive with her.

But what if I had one of these data walls? As the lowest-performing child in my class, what would this have done to her to see her name and picture “on the bottom?”

No. No data walls for me. In my classroom, I prefer regular conferencing with students to give them an update of where they are and where they need to be. This public shaming business has to end.

Don’t know what a data wall is? Thanks to E.R. Educators to the Rescue for posting this.

Other people (mostly teachers) had this to say about these pathetic data walls:

I’m shocked that student performance is publicly posted. That’s a clear violation of privacy. The only time I effectively used public posting of data is when I compared percentage passing the test to time studied by each student and found a strong correlation. Blew their minds that it actually mattered.
This is an epically bad idea on par with New Coke
I’m still floored that they posted PHOTOS! Now, the other students can properly identify and chide the lowest performers
Doesn’t this violate FERPA?
You’ve hit a nerve in every proper educator with this topic.
I would certainly think so. I don’t even put student’s names on the board. In the beginning of the year I give them each a number. We use the number instead of a name so that parents and other educators can’t see what going on and the students maintain their dignity. A data wall is exactly the opposite! We are taking a huge step backwards with this!
Yes, they are a violation!!! Would teachers want a similar wall based on their DPAS in the faculty room. Would admin want one based on theirs?
Definitely. If I’m not allowed to have a list viewable which tells of life threatening allergies, then I surely shouldn’t have a chart visible for students own data tracking. Does anyone remember the year that we had to discuss personal growth goals and then reward students who achieved their goals? And I teach kindergarten!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! My whole class got rewarded because I value them more than their data.
I wouldn’t do it. Suspend me for insubordination if you must, but I would not do it.
Basically posting students scores on a chart for all to see.
Bahahaha! This one comment: “How about posting each one of your paychecks or your weight? Seems only fitting the teacher share in this glorious display of data.”
So, we’re taking away creative play and limiting recess, adding more testing and less instruction, and then thinking this will lead to better test scores and kids caring about the boring, stressful testing moments of their days? Ugh. Education reform needs a reality check on the positive growth and development of children.
Horrible, terrible, miserable, anti-empathetic, anti-teacher-like behavior.
So there you have it folks.  Teachers hate these things.  They should fire whoever came up with this crap.  Seriously.  I’m guessing they don’t have kids or they had some horrible accident where all the feeling and emotion got sucked out of them.
Remember Delaware public schools…Thursday…the clock starts ticking NOW!