Get the Full Picture

Topics: Assessment and Evaluation, Pandemic Leadership

Kaylen Tucker, Ph.D.

We entered the school year with a clear mandate: Address unfinished learning and fill the voids in students’ social and emotional development brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic’s multiple years of disruption. We also know that learning loss hit some communities harder than others, and that principals are called to assess achievement data to lead learning communities through recovery with an equity lens.

In this instance, the “what” is clear—but the “how” can be murky for school leaders who might feel overwhelmed with the prospect of “fixing” everything at once. So while student data is an important tool in identifying the adjustments that need to be made to increase success, according to Illinois principal Joe Mullikin, “data becomes actionable only when we know what we’re looking at and what we’re going to do with it.” In his article on page 16, “Disentangling Student Data,” Mullikin urges leaders to keep their data analysis simple, make sure that it can be used to encourage changes in behavior, and most importantly, never lose sight of the kids.

In addition to Mullikin’s recommendations, this issue of Principal magazine addresses ways school leaders can understand and mitigate biases in curriculum and instruction, strengthen cultural responsiveness, and ensure quality instructional materials for our earliest learners.

And finally, this issue shines a light on what for most principals is the sweet spot of their day: experiencing what goes beyond what can be revealed by typical achievement data. Pennsylvania principal Matthew Moyer says he looks for “Smiles Per Hour” to gauge the impact of the school he leads. “Do kids love being at school?” he asks. “This matters. They are at school for many hours a day; it should be a place they enjoy and have fun.”

Kaylen Tucker, Ph.D.