Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Obsessed or Just Relentless?

Earlier this month, Washington Post education reporter Valerie Strauss posted a blog asking if the U.S. Department of Education is “obsessed with data” when it comes to their Promise Neighborhoods grantees.

The answer is, yeah, kind of.

But we’d argue the real obsession is with results.

Focusing on specific indicators means focusing on progress. What the government is doing is creating a new level of accountability. Of shared accountability that every partner in every Promise Neighborhood site is clear about.

Why are they doing this? Because to make sure that every child in a low-income neighborhood has the opportunity to get to and graduate from college means everyone involved has to understand what’s going on. Everyone has to be on the same page. And unless you’re tracking along the way – watching data on daily school attendance or critical milestones like reading well by the end of third grade – you risk waiting until kids fail to realize there’s a problem.

Another reason the focus on data and results is so important? It makes for much more efficient use of the resources at hand. Because as Strauss points out, there’s far less funding for Promise Neighborhoods than other education initiatives.

And so yes, it might take some time to get some of the details worked out on the best indicators organizations should be collecting and reporting. But it’s all part of a bigger picture.

Working with each of these communities, we know what’s at stake. We’re glad the Department of Education, neighborhood stakeholders, parents and everyone else who touches the lives of children in Promise Neighborhoods are relentless about results. It’s because they all understand what the end goal is.

And we’d argue that’s something worth being obsessed with!

Frank Farrow is the director of the Center for the Study of Social Policy, the training and technical assistance provider for the federal Promise Neighbhorhoods initiative.

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