Paul Kadri, a 16-year public school administrator, has been on the forefront in designing data systems to help schools improve student achievement. In this interview, Paul Kadri shares important information to consider when establishing a new system.
ZRYLW: Thank you for taking time to share your thoughts on improving student achievement.
Paul Kadri: It is my pleasure. This is a critical topic for success in education.
ZRYLW: People have noted that you have a lot of experience in data systems. Tell us more?
Paul Kadri: You can’t have a good system without technology. I have a deep interest in technology, and I enjoy finding ways for technology to help organizations. Turning data into valuable information is critical to success. I’ve been involved in doing this for quite a while.
ZRYLW: When did you develop your expertise in technology?
Paul Kadri: My undergraduate degree is in electrical engineering. I focused mostly on computer science and specifically on artificial intelligence. Back then, we were exploring the limits of computers in replicating what humans do.
ZRYLW: And you carried that interest into your career?
Paul Kadri: I did. My first job was with IBM, and aside from learning a tremendous amount about the technology, they helped me understand the many ways in which technology can help organizations. I have been taking that skill and applying it in all of my jobs, whether in the private or public sectors.
ZRYLW: What made you focus on data and information?
Paul Kadri: It is readily understood that an organization that has valuable information has a much greater chance of success than one that doesn’t. Creating a system that gives employees, at various parts of the organization, information that helps them do their jobs more effectively is the ultimate goal.
ZRYLW: You believe the same holds true in education?
Paul Kadri: Probably more than any other industry. Helping students reach their potential is a very complicated process that can only become easier if good information is available.
ZRYLW: You’ve been quoted as saying that education is data rich and information poor. Is that true? What does that mean?
Paul Kadri: It is absolutely true. When you think about it, we have data on everything in education. We give state tests, local tests, chapter tests, quizzes, standardized tests, etc. What happens to all that data? Many teachers will get this data and be asked to interpret it and apply it in how they deal with their students. The difference that can exist between how one teacher looks at data versus another can be dramatic.
ZRYLW: How does the data system help with that problem?
Paul Kadri: A data system allows these data elements to be organized in a way that makes valuable information both reliable and valid. If set up correctly, a teacher can get information that requires little interpretation but offers valuable insights on how to best impact the students.
ZRYLW: Doesn’t this take the teacher out of the valuable part of data interpretation?
Paul Kadri: That is a common misconception. Interpretation should not take place at the end; it should be done in the beginning. In other words, when you are setting up the way the system will organize the data, you have key stakeholders involved to make sure they agree with what is taking place. After that point, interpretation is done and information is automatically distributed for consistency.
ZRYLW: Once you get this established, do you ever revisit it?
Paul Kadri: Absolutely. On a regular basis you revisit your assumptions and how you organized your data and make sure it is giving you valuable information. You change things if you think they can be improved.
ZRYLW: To conclude, can you describe your ultimate goal when establishing a data system?
Paul Kadri: The best way to do that is by offering an example. If a teacher has an hour of time, I would like them to spend as much of that hour helping their students improve. We know that valuable information helps the teacher, but at what cost when it comes to using part of that hour? A good data system is valuable information to the teacher without taking more than a minute or two of that hour.
Paul Kadri was last superintendent of the Groton public schools in Connecticut. In addition to his expertise in data systems, Paul Kadri is also known for his extensive knowledge of school finance and site-based budgeting. For more information about Paul Kadri, visit his website at aboutpaulkadri.com.