Teachers are not Analysts: Re-Thinking our Expectations of the Data-Focused Teacher Generation

Editor's note: This post comes from Dr. Carl Letamendi (an EP Fellow) and his colleagues at Ology Research Group.


It would be unreasonable to ask our doctor to fix our leaking faucet, or to expect our accountant to settle our legal disputes. We don’t because doctors, lawyers, and accountants are experts in their respective fields, and the idea of asking them to be something that they are not is ludicrous.

The same logic applies to those in the education profession.

There is a growing trend and expectation that teachers must be “data driven”— aside from educating our students, they are also expected to analyze student assessment data (including formative assessments, interim exams, state tests, etc.).

The reality is that teachers are not analysts, yet they are expected to wear the analyst hat, even though they have not been extensively trained in that arena. Even if there were adequate courses and resources to train teachers to interpret the data, would it really be the most efficient use of their time?

In response to this growing trend, many schools have turned to dashboards, data visualizations, and other eloquent tools to alleviate teachers’ burden. This new response, while powerful in the right hands, still does not serve as the antidote for the larger problem: teachers must now master a new tool and technology (on top of teaching our children and all of their other school related responsibilities).

In a recent survey, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation found that 91% of teachers report using some form of analytics solution, but only 32% found the data interpretation to be useful.  This raises the question: Is it reasonable to expect teachers to be experts in data analysis and interpretation, given the fact they do not feel supported and are already overwhelmed with their duties in the classroom?

It is not surprising to find that teacher attrition is amongst the highest in the professional field, which is partly due to lack of support and the high burn-out rate.

The National Education Association found that teachers are more likely to leave because of unrealistic expectations, lack of support, challenges with discipline, low pay, and lack of respect. A leading expert in teacher attrition, Dr. Richard Ingersoll calculated that the high teacher turnover rates could cost school districts upwards of $2.2 billion annually!

Teachers need data-interpreters who can essentially roll up their sleeves and walk them through their data, step-by-step.

Employing dedicated analysts or securing external help who can alleviate teachers’ burden of having to analyze data not only gives teachers more time to educate, but it also allows the flexibility for principals and teachers to develop a positive mentoring relationship. Consequently, Ingersoll also found that teachers who are mentored and who have regular communication with an administrator are more likely to stay in their schools.

We need to re-examine the role of data and the primary agent responsible for analyzing and interpreting those student achievement data. Should teachers assume this burden? We think not.

We believe schools should hire dedicated support specializing in data analysis and interpretation, to help schools measure student academic progress, forecast state assessment scores, and identify struggling students throughout the year, so as to adjust instruction quickly and help students succeed.

We challenge everyone in the field of primary and secondary education to do the same.

School leaders, ask your teachers how they feel about analyzing student assessment data. Are they comfortable with it? Would they rather have someone else do it, so they can have time to do other instructionally-relevant things? Does it intimidate them?

So why not take a step back, adjust your thinking towards teacher expectations, and listen to them! Let’s help make our good schools great, and take the steps we need to take to let teachers do what they do best – TEACH!


Dr. Carl Letamendi, Dr. Jazmin Letamendi and Dr. Kacey Shap are co-founders of Ology Research Group, a solutions focused, non-profit data consultancy and think tank, dedicated to putting the underprivileged, underserved and underrepresented members of our society at the core of our research. For more information on Ology Research Group and their new K-12 data solution, EdOlogy, please visit www.ologyresearchgroup.org or inquire at info@ologyresearchgroup.org


School Districts are willing to spend money on additional people. How about creating a team of students, who do the analysis and report to school boards and principals about what the results and if they see issues propose changes? Some people have a natural affinity to data and this could be an opportunity for students to improve their analytical, problem solving and communication skills. When districts see the value of the data, hopefully they'll realize they want to hire a full time data scientist and let teachers be teachers.

Join the Conversation

Commenting Policy

Education Pioneers does not discriminate against any views but reserves the right to remove or not post comments that are off-topic or contain obscene language, threats, or defamatory statements.