Lately, I have received numerous questions on the subject of data collection.Â Does it have to be done every day?Â What kind of data needs to be collected?Â What do you do with a mountain of data?Â What does all of this data even mean?
The one question that continually surprises me, though, is, â€śWhy do I even have to do this?â€ť
So to all those in the world of special education who are asking themselves this question right now, let me tell you a story.
There once was a woman named Marina who weighed 267 lbs, but Marina did not know that she weighed this much.Â Her willpower against fattening foods lasted as long as a balloon in a roomful of kittens.Â She watched The Biggest Loser for kicks, always telling herself she wasnâ€™t â€śthat badâ€ť.Â She rarely posed for pictures, and she certainly didnâ€™t go out for exercise.Â Marina clung to the idea that numbers didnâ€™t matter.
One fateful October evening in 2010, Marina stepped on the scale for the first time in over ten years.Â The scream of terror that she unleashed was unimaginable.Â There were tears.Â Oh, were there tears.Â But Marina knew that she would never see that number again because it would be her baseline.
Interventions were implemented the very next day.Â Marina documented everything that entered her mouth.Â She counted every calorie.Â Her entire diet shifted as a result, moving her in a direction she never thought she would go â€“ vegetarian.Â She worked out twice a day, and faithfully, every week, she took her assessment â€“ a simple weigh-in on Wednesday mornings.Â She reviewed her data in order to figure out the best combination of interventions to get the biggest result.
I am proud to say that I am now 50 pounds less than I was this time last year.
The moral of the story is that I couldnâ€™t become better until I held myself accountable for the decisions I had made.Â Without the data of how much I was eating and exercising, I wouldn’t have known how to adjust my program.Â And before you ask, yes, it was tedious writing down every single morsel, but my health was well worth the effort.
So too are our students within special education.Â Their education depends on well-informed decisions, and if there is no data to make those decisions, then how can our students ever make true progress? Â Â Data collection is the means for being held accountable for implementing the IEP with fidelity.Â When itâ€™s time to update the IEP, thereâ€™s no wondering, no guessing.Â You simply know because you have proof.
The next time you wonder whether or not data collection is worth it as youâ€™re charting away, documenting whether or not John can remain on task for 70% of the time with verbal and visual prompts, remember â€“ itâ€™s for the greater good.Â Of course, if that canâ€™t sustain you, you could always tune in for The Biggest Loser, Tuesday nights on NBC.