By IPLI Mentor Michael Pinto, Principal, James Cole Elementary (Tippecanoe School Corporation)
There is an old expression that says, “What gets measured gets done.” There’s some truth to that. There’s also a common call that one hears from many educators, “The ISTEP doesn’t tell the whole story.” There’s some truth to that as well. There are many wonderful pieces that make a school valued. Test scores are one such piece, but most everyone would agree that it is not the only piece. There is a growing trend among schools to differentiate what they and their school community value outside a test data point. So how do you quantify these pieces and tell the complete story of your school? The School Dashboard was the answer in my school.
Several years ago in an ongoing collaborative conversation between the high school our students feed into and all the other feeder schools, we were introduced to the concept of the dashboard. At the time, McCutcheon High School had a simple dashboard printed on poster paper which included aspects like school attendance, end of course assessments, and graduation rate. It was a simple poster, but it told such a more complete story than the one or two data points which are entered on the front page of a newspaper when graduation rates and ISTEP test results are published.
At James Cole Elementary School, where I am principal, we took this concept as a staff and began to explore its possibilities. What was created two years ago was a very rudimentary dashboard, but it offered a greater story. It included assessments offered in our non-ISTEP grades K-2. It also included areas of our school improvement plan that were needed to be visual and easily accessible. The challenge often with school improvement plans is that the data goals and the data points sound great when they are created, but when the document is created and submitted, the emphasis goes away. Again, “What gets measured gets done”.
Last year our superintendent, Dr. Scott Hanback, challenged the entire administrative team to brainstorm what we value as a school. He, along with local business and Chamber of Commerce leaders, had been discussing how the results from a standardized test score do not tell the entire story. Our schools do so much more and our parents and community find value in so much more than what is printed in the newspaper. This conversation led to me to revisit our dashboard as a staff and expand its focus. This expanded focus helps us tell our story.
The result is the James Cole Elementary Dashboard. With the help of McCutcheon High School’s graphic arts and printing department, it was brought to life with color. This department printed fifty of these dashboards which are displayed prominently around our school’s lobby and outside each classroom door. Because what gets measured gets done and what is visible gets measured! Our schools have been saying for many years, “We’re so much more than what an ISTEP test score shows.” If we don’t tell our story, no one will. The dashboard has helped our school tell our story. It also has helped us stay true to our North and be reminded what is important and what is being measured as points of emphasis moving forward.
The James Cole Elementary Dashboard