Data Hesitant & Advocacy-Centered Educators with Matthew Courtney, EdD
August 23, 2022
Data Hesitant & Advocacy-Centered Educators with Matthew Courtney, EdD

We ask so much of teachers, from customizing learning to being that trusted adult some children don’t have at home to advocating for individual children. And yet we also still ask them to start from square one at the beginning of every school year, gathering data about their students so they can serve them best.

The added challenge is that many of our teachers aren’t skilled in digging into data and using it effectively. Why aren’t school districts and states creating resources for our teachers so they can focus on the art of teaching? The technology is there, but we’re not using it wisely.

This week on the podcast, I’m talking with Dr. Matthew Courtney, an educator, researcher, and policy maker who helps to build more capacity in teachers and leaders through deep analyses of learning. Matthew is also an experienced advocate who shares with us how educators can put on their own advocate hats without getting burned out.

I feel so strongly about Matthew’s work that I’ve asked him to join us on our next EdActive Collective meeting in September so our members can further their own important advocacy work.

Be sure to tune in.

About Matthew Courtney, EdD:

Dr. Matthew Courtney specializes in using data and research to support schools and teachers as they work to improve teaching and learning. As an educator, researcher, and policy maker, he focuses his efforts on building capacity in teachers and leaders to perform deep analyses of learning. When educators are faced with persistent problems of practice, he shows them how to tap into the existing research literature to solve their problem and to apply research methodologies to rigorously test their solutions. Dr. Courtney is dedicated to helping the education profession fully self actualize into an evidence-based profession that relies on deep thinking, collaboration, and a joint commitment towards advancing scientific knowledge of teaching and learning in the field.

Jump in the Conversation:

[1:21] – Data and policy to make learning better – unpacking them
[1:43] – What started Matthew on school transformation journey
[3:38] – Why busy teachers need to educate themselves about data
[5:27] – Data driven decision an elementary school teacher might make
[6:22] – We use data indirectly more than we realize
[7:40] – Overcoming the learning curve
[10:01] – Exploratory data analysis – having a conversation with your data
[13:03] – Build a team of evidence informed practitioners
[13:20] – The importance of doing advocacy work
[15:08] – Policy change on mental health and wellbeing
[16:42] – Visit state board of education websites to find out what they’re working on
[17:55] – Once you’ve listened to a few meetings, advocate early and often
[18:28] – You need to learn how to advocate before you speak out about things that are level 10 issues for you
[19:47] – Policy starts in state legislature with regulations
[22:10] – Turbo Time
[26:14] – What people need to know about data driven school improvement
[28:58] – To be an activist, just start
[30:59] – Matthew’s Magic Wand
[32:20] – Maureen’s Takeaways

Links & Resources



Maureen O’Shaughnessy 0:03
Hello fellow parents and educators. Thank you for joining me at Education Evolution, where we are disrupting the status quo in today’s learning models. We talk about present day education, what’s broken, who’s fixing it, and how. I’m Dr. Maureen O’Shaughnessy, your host and founder of education evolution, micro school coalition, and co founder of at active, I consult and train with schools and leaders who are fiercely committed to changing the narrative, reimagining the education landscape, and creating learning that serves all children and prepares them to thrive. If you are new, welcome to the podcast, please subscribe on our website to get it delivered to your inbox weekly. If you’ve been around a while, have you left a review?

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 1:07
Matthew, it is so good to have you on education evolution.

Matthew Courtney 1:11
Hi, thanks for having me.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 1:14
And listeners. today I’m chatting with Matthew Courtney, author and fierce educational activists, Matthew used data and policy to make schools work better for teachers and learners. Both of these tools intimidate me. Let’s unpack each of these valuable resources.

Matthew Courtney 1:33
I would love to do that today.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 1:36
I always like to start with that Genesis piece. We all know our schools must evolve to serve all learners. What started you on this school transformation journey?

Matthew Courtney 1:47
That’s a great question. So I started my career teaching elementary general music. So I had around 400 Young Learners every year. And we got to play with with music and the arts and discuss the intersectionality of music and all of the content areas. And it’s something I just absolutely love to do. And while I was doing that work, I got involved in my professional associations and started to really see beyond the four walls of my classroom that there were some gaps in what we could and should be doing in our schools. I like to say, On the data front, when I was a teacher, I used to bluff my way through all of my faculty and staff meetings about that I just sort of pretend that I knew what was going on. But I knew deep down I really didn’t fully grasp the importance of data and research in driving our decision making. And when I got into the advocacy field, and then later in my career into the policymaking field, the role of data and research and guiding those decisions has become so much more clear to me. And so now I’m on a journey to connect with educators all over the country and all over the world and help them understand how data and research can really be leveraged to make better policy and make better decisions both at the classroom and system level to help all teachers and learners be successful.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 3:07
I love that. And there’s a really big gap there. I think I speak for a lot of educators, when I find data to either be dead, like these numbers, just like whatever, it’s not helping us serve kids, or to find it loaded, like oh my gosh, there’s data about this and this and and they kind of conflict or where do you focus? So what are data driven decisions? And why would we want to use them in schools, especially why would busy teachers want to take time for data?

Matthew Courtney 3:39
Yeah, so every teacher probably knows the adage, work smarter, not harder, right? We have tons on our plate as teachers, and sometimes working with that I can feel like we’re making the work harder. And I certainly get that. What I would say to that is that when we have learned the skills and built the systems to support effective data use, we really can work smarter, we can understand what’s happening in our classrooms a little better, we can tap into research to better design innovations and strategies to help our learners succeed and accelerate learning in our classroom. But we do have to acknowledge that there is a skill gap in our field and that a lot of teachers are afraid of using data. I like to call this teachers data hesitant educators. They’re willing to use data, but they just don’t love it. And they don’t have the time and the skills to embrace that. And so we really have to think critically about how we are supporting educators in this work so that data use can really feel meaningful. And I love the ease the phrase, sometimes the data can feel dead. And I hear that all the time as I work with folks. And so one of the things that I always like to tell educators is work with the data that works for you. If the data isn’t resonating with you, put it on the shelf and focus on data points that are resonating with you and your kids right now, that’s going to make the work feel a lot more meaningful and will be more meaningful as you make decisions.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 5:09
I like that. So give me an example of a data driven decision that say an elementary teacher might make.

Matthew Courtney 5:17
Sure. So I’ll give you an example, a good friend of mine, teaches in teaches kindergarten. And she had a student last year who was still struggling with potty training in kindergarten, and was really causing a lot of disruption in her class. And in the life of this child, the child couldn’t participate in extracurricular activities, and was having to go home every day, and the parents didn’t really know what else to do to support the child. And so this educator, went to the research first and she said, Well, what do we know about delayed potty training? And what does the research tell us about that? Then she borrowed from the literature, some data collection protocols, she designed an intervention collected the data on her student, and now that child is fully potty trained, and can participate fully in class can attend extracurriculars can go on field trips, through that simple application of research and data use in her classroom, she not only changed her classroom, but she changed the whole life of that child and his family.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 6:21
Love that. And as you say that it makes me realize, we use data indirectly, indirectly more than we realize I’m thinking we have an SLP, a counselor, an OT, that help at my micro school. And there it’s like, not necessarily that I go research, explain more about sensory needs, but I go to them and they will talk to me about underutilized or over utilized sensory to how would that turn the auditory sensory for this kid? And they in a nutshell, are our data and they get it, and then they can break it down for so I think we do. gather more information. But when you use that four letter word data, we get scared.

Matthew Courtney 7:03
Yeah. And I think it’s about intentionality. Because you’re right, we do use data and research all the time. I mean, think about, I’m in the market right now for a new laptop computer. And I’m reading reviews, and I’m reading advice columns, and that is a form of data and research that I’m soliciting to help me make a better choice. We don’t buy a blender on Amazon without reading all of the reviews. And so why do we adopt classroom practices or curriculum or strategies without doing the same due diligence? I think it is a lot of fear. And I think it is a lot of misinformation and time we lack the structures to do that work efficiently.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 7:42
So tell me that, because you had mentioned that before that there is a learning curve, and it does take time to create the systems. So I’m a teacher, I’m in my own classroom, where would I start to educate myself, and to create a system where data can can enhance what I do with my learner’s?

Matthew Courtney 8:03
Yeah, so from a teacher perspective, start with the data that you have in front of you. So we know teachers are collecting data points all the time, they’re collecting grades, they’re collecting behavior data, they’re doing those quick check formative assessments, work with that data and start to kind of make tables and charts and do some simple, low hanging analysis of that data. There are tons of resources to help you learn how to do that.

Matthew Courtney 8:27
On my website, I have videos as well as free analytic tools, where you can upload a spreadsheet and it will auto populate data analysis for you go to YouTube, go to Coursera some of those other online locations and and get those skills that you need to work effectively in a spreadsheet, or how to build a dashboard in a spreadsheet that you can use their skills that sound hard, but really in a five or 10 minute YouTube video, you can learn those skills and begin to apply them, then what we have to think about is from a system level, where do our leaders come into play? Because it shouldn’t be on the teachers back, it shouldn’t be their burden to design their own student information system and start from scratch every year. So there’s some great resources out there. One of the resources I love is from the Data Quality Campaign that really help leaders system leaders think through how we build sustainable systems for data use, how do you have a building or a school system or even a statewide student information system where all the data can live or any teacher can access it and use it quickly and effectively. That’s really where we need to get as a profession to where all of that data is accessible. And teachers don’t have to do all of the data collection and cleanup every single time they want to make a data driven decision.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 9:46
Love that that breaks it down and tell us what we would find in exploratory data analysis in the classroom. Your book talks about it.

Matthew Courtney 9:59
Yeah. Thank you for that question. So this is really the book that I needed as a teacher when I was bluffing my way through those PLC activities. exploratory data analysis is a technique that I have taught teachers all over the country that is really focused on having a conversation with your data. Most teachers have probably one data or research class, maybe a statistics class at some point in their training, and it probably didn’t stick. That’s been my experience, personal experience, at least in a story that I hear a lot is I had the class, but I’ve heard these terms, but I’ve never really understood what they meant. And so what we learned to do over the years, if we’ve learned to ask targeted questions of our data, a lot of that is accountability driven, driven by changes under No Child Left Behind, we started to disaggregate data really meaningfully for the first time as a field, and that interrogative process is beneficial. But with exploratory data analysis, we’re not asking just one question. We’re asking dozens of questions. And we’re just trying to see what’s in the data. I like to say it’s an anomaly detection process.

Matthew Courtney 11:04
So as we go through the data, we practice finding data that surprises us, or concerns us or just looks strange, a number is higher or lower than we expected it to be. And then we can apply our practitioner knowledge and say, Well, why do we think that number is higher or lower than it needs to be? And then from there, we can start to make data informed decisions. And so my book walks you through step by step how to actually do that with data in your classroom. When I wrote it, one of the things that that I felt very strongly about, including in the book was a series of vignettes. And so throughout the book, you actually follow a middle school social studies teacher, as she accesses data on her new class roster, and performs an exploratory data analysis every chapter, you can actually download her dataset off of my website and follow along with her and check your work and check your understanding. So it’s really a book designed to be a study tool, and makes a great book study, because you can really follow along, check your answers. It’s also supported by videos. So if you’re struggling to make some element of the spreadsheet work for you, you can go back, you can watch the video, follow the exact steps that Miss Newman, the teacher in the vignette, my book follows throughout the whole process.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 12:21
Right there, you’re doing it my doctoral research, I did qualitative, I wanted stories, less on the number of fun, and you’re turning it into in a way qualitative with following her story, you’re also using, we have flipped learning at my microscope, reading mini video lectures that kids can go back to so you’re giving us the video, which is such an important form of media right now. You’re giving us something we can go back to. And you’re you’re making it real world examples versus dry numbers. So you obviously know, as are your audience, and are making it really relevant and powerful and not as scary?

Matthew Courtney 13:02
Well, I mean, I really am an avid evidence informed practitioner, and I am trying to build a field of Evidence Informed practitioners. So I’m practicing what I preach the creation of this book, and all the trainings and workshops that I do.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 13:16
love that. I want to shift because you mentioned three areas. And I want to briefly touch on area two, and then unpack area three. So you have been focused on data and research, and then advocacy, and then policy. Just talk to us a little bit about what you’ve done in in the way of advocacy work.

Matthew Courtney 13:38
Yeah, so, advocacy work has always been something really important to me. When I was a classroom teacher, I advocated through my professional associations through the Kentucky Education Association, Kentucky Music Educators Association, and really leveraging the tools that were there to me to elevate my voice and my concerns and my thoughts and my passions for the field. I think that all educators must be advocates for their students. And they must learn how to pull those various advocacy levers to make sure that their voice is heard by policymakers at the state and federal level. And even at the system level. I think we often direct our policy advocacy work towards sort of the State Department or the legislature, but a lot of those decisions are made at the local level by local boards of education by local superintendents and other staff leadership. And we really need to learn how to pull those levers and elevate our voice for the better of our profession and our students.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 14:36
That is so important. And I know a lot of educators we feel like we’re banging our heads against the walls. We really want things to be different, but we’re so slammed getting ready for state testing and this and that. And 150 kids in our high school, you know that we you know, groups of 30. But what you’re talking about, is that educational activism through it Your advocacy and then through policy change. I want to focus in on policy change in an area that is really, really dear to my heart. I know, we care deeply about how we educate our learners and their outcomes. And a piece of that, that isn’t on the state test is their mental health and well being. So and the statistics were appalling pre pandemic, in my opinion, and now there are just horrifying. Can you break down? How can I find out what my state board of education is working on in the way of mental health? Or maybe even just in general? And then how can I influence? Or how can I shake things up and say, Wait a minute, this isn’t just a widget that’s learning math in English? This is a human being that needs TLC? Where would I start? If I really that’s my passion? How can I tie that into policy? Which seems like something that you have to be? I don’t know, a poli sci major in the legislature to even starting on?

Matthew Courtney 16:07
Sure. Yeah, policy certainly can be intimidating. And, and thank you for your passion for mental health and student emotional well being. That’s also an area that I’m very passionate about, and do a lot of personal advocacy for. So you asked specifically about the state board and what my state is doing. So let’s start there. So the best place you can start is really your State Board of Education website, every state board of education in the United States has one. And they post meeting agendas and minutes. And a lot of times now, especially post COVID videos of meetings. And so I would encourage all of your listeners to visit your State Board of Education website to look at recent agendas and see what the conversation is about to look at those meeting minutes and see, did they take action on items, and then to kind of fast forward in those meeting videos to the elements that are most important to you, in my experience as both an advocate and a policymaker, those state board of education meetings and other kinds of meetings, so your legislative education committee meetings and places like that are a really untapped source of information for both educators and advocates.

Matthew Courtney 17:19
But they’re kind of tricky, right? There’s a special kind of meeting, there’s a lot of rules and to how those meetings play. And so you kind of have to watch them and attend them on a regular basis. To understand the flow. One of the things that I always do, in my state, we’re lucky to have almost every meeting recorded on video. And so I kind of treat them like a podcast. And when I have a long drive, when I’m cleaning the house, I pop that meeting in and listen to it while I’m doing other things. That helps me be a little more efficient with my time, but also to hear the conversation and to see where that conversation is going. Then once you’re kind of comfortable with sort of that environment. The next step is to advocate early and often. So think about if we think about are our issues on a scale of like one to 10 one, meaning I’m not paying any attention, I don’t care about that thing to 10, I’m gonna like like my hair on fire, this is the most important thing in my life, right? Start with those issues that are like levels three and four things that you care about, but not things that are going to consume your whole life and your whole emotional mental state during the advocacy period.

Matthew Courtney 18:25
And here’s why I suggest that you have to learn the processes and the steps, you have to learn to be comfortable in that environment, you have to learn to talk to a legislature and build relationships with them. And if you start with those level three or four things, things that you care about, but not things that are going to be all consuming. When you do have a level 10 issue that comes up, you’re going to be prepared, you’re going to have established rapport, you’re gonna know what the process is, you’re going to know who to call to schedule the meeting, you’re going to know how to write that letter or submit that public comment on a bill or a regulation draft. And it’s going to make the process much more seamless, much less emotionally charged, and more effective ultimately, in the end.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 19:15
I like that this is super specific. And listeners back end node. I’ve already asked Matthew if he’ll come and speak at our education at our collective or activism collective just because these are tools that most of us don’t know. And what you’re saying is very doable. And makes a lot of sense. I think I said State Board of Education just out of ignorance. Where else could I be tuning in to make sure I can be an advocate for youth?

Matthew Courtney 19:47
Yeah, so a couple of places. So state boards of education, they create regulation, but regulation starts in the legislature. So don’t forget about your state legislature. When they pass a bill. Generally what happens is that gets passed. asked to your board of education and then they create the regulation. And a regulation is a document that outlines sort of the rules and procedures for actually implementing a bill. Once a regulation is passed, then it’s up to local boards of education and superintendents and other staff leaders within a school system to take those regulations and create local policy. And that local policy is where that regulation and then the bill, right, it’s an extension, it’s all past, that local policy is where the actual boots on the ground physical changes happen. So you really have to pay attention at all three levels. Because as levers are pooled the rules and the and the sort of trickle down effect shifts.

Matthew Courtney 20:42
So you start with legislation that’s a little more broad regulation gives you rules, and then policy at the local level that interprets that boots on the ground element. Another source of information to pay attention to are what we call guidance documents, or non regulatory guidance. And those come out of state department’s of education, as well as the Federal Department of Education. And that is where policymakers say, hey, we wrote this regulation, or, Hey, this bill has become law. Here’s what we think that means and how you should use that. And through those documents, you know, those documents are non regulatory, they don’t have the force of law. But they’re interpretive documents, and they really help the general public and the teaching workforce, understand what a regulation or a law really says. So don’t, don’t discount those either. And try to hit all three of those areas. When you’re looking at looking at meetings, watch the legislature, watch your state board, watch your local board, because each of them has a vitally important role to play, and you can insert your voice at any level.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 21:48
I love that. We could talk all day on this, I certainly can’t wait. And active our collective is going to love unpacking this because last year, we kind of weren’t as activists, we were just holding it together. It was such a crazy year. And now we’re ready to get back to that activism. I want to shift gears, I think it’s always really interesting to understand the person behind the topic. So I have a few turbo time questions for you.

Matthew Courtney 22:16
Okay, go for it.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 22:17
What’s the last book you read?

Matthew Courtney 22:19
The last book that I read was The some of us. And let me see if let me pull that off the shelf. And I’ll tell you the author name because it’s escaping me as I talk.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 22:30
Sounds like it’s about numbers. If I’m understanding su m to be the sum.

Matthew Courtney 22:36
It’s actually not Oh, here it is. Okay, okay. Okay. So let me so the last book I read is the some of us by Heather McGee, and it is about how racism and the history of race in the United States has impacted systems and structures, not just within education, but completely top to bottom across our nation. It is a fascinating read, an easy read. I didn’t I didn’t find it to be too challenging, I would definitely recommend it. And it really does. It really made me think a lot about how am I data and evidence application work? How we need to think through the history and the social structures that that impact our country and our systems and how we can leverage that historical perspective, plus the data plus the research to really make even better supercharged decisions.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 23:33
Oh, my love that. And I’d like to say that it’s easy. I mean, I really want people this summer to get to tinker, but not to feel loaded down. I want them to recharge as well.

Matthew Courtney 23:44
Yeah, it’s filled with great stories. So it feels very comfortable to read.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 23:48
Nice. How about two inspirational folks you’d love to meet?

Matthew Courtney 23:53
Oh, that’s a great one. Well, I would love to meet our current Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona. He, I think is an excellent representative and advocate for our nation as a former English learner student and then working his way sort of through that, through that system. I think he brings a fascinating and new perspective to federal policymaking. And then can I do a dead person?

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 24:23
Oh, totally. You could even you could do Harry Potter. It’s your call.

Matthew Courtney 24:26
Well, let’s see so far we’re gonna do a dead person. Another activist that I would love to engage in a conversation with is Mother Jones. Mother Jones was a really one of the nation’s first really powerful labor leader organizers. And she is, in my view, sort of the quintessential advocate. One of my favorite things about her is that she lost her husband and children. This is not a favorite thing. This is sad, but she lost her family and children and the Yellow fever epidemic that after that, she said, Why don’t have family keeping me here. So she sold all of her worldly goods sold her house, she carried a carpet bag with two dresses, a pair of boots and a Bible. And she traveled the country helping to organize communities and helping underserved people advocate for changes to policy. And she was all in, she lived on train cars and and slept in barns and guest houses and guest rooms. And when she testified before the US Congress, they asked her address and she said my address is the United States. Because she didn’t have a permanent address. She was all in on her advocacy work. And I would love to hear more about that. And and what inspired her to do that and what her life was like, all and 100% human rights advocate.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 25:58
Oh, wow, I think unencumbered and how freeing, but I also think, Whoa, no safety nets, no little escape places.

Matthew Courtney 26:08
It’s an intense commitment.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 26:10
Yeah. How about the biggest thing you wish folks knew about data driven school improvement.

Matthew Courtney 26:18
The biggest thing I wish folks knew is that it’s not as hard as it sounds. It can feel very scary, and feel like a heavy lift. But start where you are and build incrementally over time. I promise you can do it.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 26:34
Nice. What is a pet peeve of yours, it can be anything school or other related.

Matthew Courtney 26:41
My biggest pet peeve in the world is when people say research says bla bla bla bla bla bla bla, because whose research said that? If you can’t tell me whose research said it, that I don’t believe you. That’s that’s a huge pet peeve of mine. One of the things I always tell schools to do as they’re getting on board with this evidence, informed school improvement journey is to appoint a research police and give them a bell. And anytime in a meeting, someone says research says without a citation, ring the bell and then we stop the meeting and we find it. Because do we really know that research says that? Or do we just think that research says that that’s a very important distinction.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 27:20
Love it. And I find that when people say the Bible says or statistics says it’s like and what else does the Bible or what else do statistics say? Because it’s rarely as black and white as we want to portray things?

Matthew Courtney 27:33
Exactly. We live in a world of gray.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 27:35
Yes, yes. What is a passion that you bring to educational change?

Matthew Courtney 27:42
Oh, wow. It’s really about the children. And when I go into a school, and I’m working with the school, I love when I have opportunities to work with children, one of the hardest things in my life was making the transition from the classroom to the policy space, because I had to step away from those children every day. And I still when I wake up in the morning, see the faces of my students. And think about those students who are in the schools today. And that is what gets me out of bed. That is what motivates me every day, I want to create a better world and a better system for our future.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 28:18
Mic drop, that’s powerful. What is a favorite thing or a fun fact about Kentucky?

Matthew Courtney 28:27
Fun fact about Kentucky? Well, Kentucky we call ourselves the horse capital of the world. And it is one of my favorite states to fly into. Of course, because I’m flying home. But being able to fly over just the rolling hills and horse farms to see those horses from up above and the beautiful farms that we have here in Kentucky it takes my breath away every time.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 28:53
I can picture that. How can others be policy activists and help transform schools?

Matthew Courtney 29:01
So I think the trick is just to start, find the venue that feels most comfortable to you. Whether it’s Speaking at a meeting, writing an email, writing a letter, or engaging with the group and allowing your voice to become part of a collective voice that shares the same values as you. Don’t be afraid of it. Policymakers are just people. And just like you would sit across the table and have a conversation with your friends over dinner. You can do the same thing with policymakers elected or staff. We’re just people have conversations just get started.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 29:35
Yes. Last term, whatever question What is something that most people don’t know about you?

Matthew Courtney 29:43
Something that most people don’t know about me? I’m going to say that. I love my house plants. And I grow and nurture orchids and African Violet Some other types of house plants, I love them because they are a work of beauty. But they are also an exercise in patience, and consistency. And so a school improvement, it’s all about putting in the time, and you will get rewarded in the end. And so for me, when I tend to my plants every evening after work, it has a reminder that consistency is key. And that rewards the best rewards take time. And it helps me to really build that patience and sit in that belief.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 30:31
Oh, my gosh, beautiful practice and beautiful metaphor. Thank you, Matthew, I like to end the podcast with a magic wand moment. So we know schools aren’t keeping up with the needs of youth industry, or the pace of change. So if you had a magic wand, and could help us all use data and policy for needed continuous improvement, what would you wish for?

Matthew Courtney 30:58
If I could wave a magic wand and promote this effort, I would push for or wish for, or make happen. Nationwide systems of data and research access. Teachers have to jump through too many hoops. And leaders and superintendents and policymakers all of us have to jump through too many hoops to access the data to access the research, research subscriptions are very expensive. And I would fund those more through federal efforts to increase access, you can have the most impactful powerful piece of research in the world that could change the whole system. But if principals and teachers and superintendents can’t read the article, it’s never going to make a change. So that would be my number one thing. We need national systems, robust funded systems for research and data access so that we can start to use it more meaningfully.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 31:59
Sounds great. Thank you for all that you’re doing. And I really hope people will read your book and take some of these baby steps. You’ve broken it down on your website, you have so many ways to help us not be nervous. So you’re doing amazing work. And it’s so appreciated. Thank you, Matthew.

Matthew Courtney 32:16
Yes, thank you for having me and for letting me share my message.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 32:28
Matthew has taken his deep love of learners and become an advocate. And he’s created resources for us to also be advocates, and evidence informed practitioners. He his phrase data hesitant describes many of us in education. I appreciate that he understands this resistance, and that he has loaded his website and book with so many resources. I’m really counting on data points this year at my micro school. As we support kids who have had a couple of rocky years during the pandemic, I really want to be able to make data informed decisions. And not only does Matthew have the book and website of resources, he also has coaching packages, that’s really going to help us at lead prep. Bonus, knowing that he’s using any money made from the coaching to provide many research grants and access to research for more educators. Very cool how he is reinvesting any profits into making Data driven Learning available to more educators and learners. I am going to reiterate his recommendations, I think they’re very important. We need to make ourselves familiar with the system. Whether it’s a state board of education are a local board or a committee. This does mean regularly watching and attending meetings. His idea of treating it like a podcast where we can be informed as we’re on a road trip or taking a walk makes it sound more doable. And then his key sentence for me was advocate early and often. I like that he suggests we start with a level three or four topic so we can really dig in and understand processes and connections without the topic being something that we are super emotional or passionate about. And then we can go to that level 10 topic with knowledge and rapport established and hopefully be able to do it with less emotion, and more information. Matthew’s magic wand is vital. We need to put aside any silos and make sure we have a robust and funded nationwide system of data, so many people, and you’ll get to hear lots of them here on education evolution, are doing amazing things and getting wonderful results. We need to make data accessible and affordable to all. And then we have to learn so that we can create the systems to support data and students success. So we have to be able to access the information and then we have to take the time to really apply it and create our own systems. I am so glad that at the act of collective meeting, we will be able to get more information on advocacy and policy. Matthew has agreed to come to our next quarterly meeting. This education evolution needs our passion matched up with effective political action to make the differences our learners deserve. And as always, thank you for being a part of this evolution.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 36:12
If you are finding yourself thinking, I need to do this in my school. Let’s talk about it. I consult and also have a book TEDx talk an online course to support starting learner driven schools and programs. My goal is to help schools and individuals find new innovative solutions to reaching every student. Let’s create an action plan together. Visit education forward slash consult to book a call and let’s get started. Education evolution listeners, you are the ones to ensure we create classrooms where each student is seen, heard, valued and thriving. We need you. Let’s go out and reach every student today. I’d be so grateful if you’d head over to your podcast app to give a great rating and review if you found this episode valuable. Don’t wait. Please do it right now. Before you forget. I really appreciate it. Thank you listeners. Signing off. This is Maureen O’Shaughnessy, your partner in boldly reimagining education

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