Beyond Data: Building Empathy in Adults Through Student Shadow Days

Data are increasingly at the core of efforts to improve instructional quality, but often the data available to school leaders and educators are limited to specific academic points. Many teachers report classroom data have become too overwhelming to be of much use and are often represented in granular, siloed ways that make it difficult for teachers to get a sense of how students are doing overall. And much of the data are divorced from the qualitative experience of learners every day.
In an effort to build empathy for the student experience — to see school through their eyes — some school and district leaders are shadowing students through a whole day, adding a new data point to the ever-growing pile.
Recently more than 800 school and district leaders nationwide participated in Shadow a Student Challenge to better understand what goes on at the classroom level where the policies and practices they’ve mandated take effect. In San Francisco, 100 administrators took the challenge over the course of a week, looking for specific ways to improve the schools under their control while also seeking to identify district trends that could be addressed by the central office.
‘I think our goal is to have students engaged in tasks that have multiple entry points.’Marthaa Torres, principal of Thurgood Marshall High SchoolMarthaa Torres, principal of Thurgood Marshall Academic High School in the Bayview neighborhood, had done one shadow day before and found it enormously helpful to create a more well-rounded picture …