"Give them More Data" (or: Data Is Like Diamonds)

Recently we read a critique of school accountability reports — “report cards” for schools, revealing performance on a range of indicators, typically promulgated by a state department of education. Parents are the primary consumers of these reports.

The chief recommendation for these reports? Give parents more data.


Just more data?

More strikes us as a simplistic exhortation. When is straight-up more a good thing?

Money? Perhaps.

Love? Certainly.

Donuts — or, for that matter, exercise? Not always.

And certainly not for data.

A sufficient amount of data strikes us as right. Sufficient to understand, and to make informed decisions.

When it comes to understanding how our schools — or our kids — are performing, just adding data can overwhelm or confuse. Or just exhaust.

How about more insights? That seems like something a parent couldn’t get enough of.

And what if those insights are personalized — sure to be relevant? Now we’re talking.

As we add raw data, we lose people. We count out anyone who lacks the time, background, technology, or capacity to make full use of all that data.

But if we can synthesize that data — refine it, and shape it into a personalized profile — even a story…then the answer can be more.

Data is like diamonds — raw, uncut diamonds. Give it to a non-expert and they won’t know what to do; give them many raw diamonds and they’ll be annoyed or overwhelmed.

But hand them a cut, refined diamond? They’ll be delighted.

The only thing that could be better, we suppose, would be to give them more.