BY ANDREW DAVIS
When it was time for me to go to graduate school I was degree agnostic, but career focused. With the hope of becoming a Head of School later in life, I explored a wide range of graduate degrees. I narrowed it down to two: business school and divinity school. Yes, money and the divine, those were my two options. I knew that business school would help better run a multi-million dollar organization in an effective, data-informed manner. I knew that divinity school would help me take care of people – pastoral care, my mentors told me – is a critical role for the Head of School. While I was torn, Stanford’s dual MBA and MA in Education, location, and the fact that they accepted me settled the debate.
At business school I learned to love data. As I returned to education I brought my passion for numbers to my work. Whether it was reviewing applicant data to determine the most effective numbers to value in the admission process, or designing and analyzing alumni satisfaction surveys, I jumped on every numbers-focused project. I have brought that passion to MTS. I just closed our third parent-satisfaction survey and am in the thick of analyzing that data – oh how I wish your comments could be more easily parsed by Excel. This summer I created scatterplots of GPA and SSAT scores to better inform high school counseling conversations. Last winter and again this January, our faculty is working with an expert from ERB to use the November test data to improve curriculum and pedagogy. Whenever there is a big decision or a chance to improve, I love to look to the data.
In this MTS Too you will read about an exciting place that data has further entered teaching and learning at MTS. Using a new assessment tool, paid for by the generosity of last Spring’s Fund-A-Need, our humanities teachers are better able to meet each student where they are as readers. Using data, we are better able to differentiate our instruction improving the learning for all of our students. As a business school alum and educator, this is exciting to me.
When I chose business school rather than divinity school, I did not give up on the pastoral care. Both in my previous work and over the past sixteen months leading MTS, I know that numbers only tell part of a story. A student might have low scores on the ERBs because they are upset. Regardless of where an 8th grader falls on a scatterplot of data, a high school admission committee can be wowed by a compelling story. And if a child does not feel a sense of belonging they will not excel in the classroom regardless of their data-informed, customized literacy level. That is why community, belonging, and social emotional learning, is also a focus of our program growth this year as well as this month’s MTS Too.
With data and belonging – business school and divinity school, if you will – we are setting our students up for success. How will we know? We will measure it with data and we will “feel” it in our community. Both are important, even if I only have a degree in one of them.