I heard a very inspiring keynote today at the New York DATAG Summer Conference. Dr. John Hodge of the Urban Learning and Leadership Center in Virginia spoke about how important a caring adult can be to student success. He went on to share a fascinating story about his childhood and growing up in North Carolina. The boys in his neighborhood went to school together from kindergarten through high school. However, despite growing up together on the same block, being friends, and going to the same schools until high school, the boys had very different outcomes as adults. Half of the group – the “successful” ones – became businessmen, a doctor, and an educator. The other half had tragic outcomes with one serving 25 years to life in prison; another serving a life sentence; one out on parole; and one dead. It’s hard to imagine how these boys that grew up together on the same block, attending the same schools, can have such different outcomes in life. In digging into the data around these boys, it was discovered that the “successful” group all had the same 5th grade teacher. And she cared about her students. She would drive to their neighborhood and visit with the boys and their families after school. She would tell parents about the potential she saw in their son – that their boy had what it takes to go to college. She wanted them to follow their dreams.
Dr. Hodge had a powerful message about how we want what’s better than the data for our students and that there are people behind the data. As parents, educators, school leaders, and data leaders, it is our job to focus on systemic strategies for school systems and encourage our students to dream!