Saturday, August 3, 2013

Gen X Governing

I recently came across this article from a magazine called Governing, which caters to state and local government leaders. The writer, Rob Gurwitt, observes that Generation Xers are beginning to influence the way government operates, taking the place of the Baby Boomers - my generation.

As a reminder, Gen X is usually defined as those born between the mid-1960s and the early 1980s. In other words, the people who now have children in our school district.

Gurwitt asserts that the Gen Xers are starting to make their voices heard in local government, and they're going at it in a different manner than those before them. In particular, the Gen Xers expect to have easy access to lots of data, and they're using that data to make decisions about how well their local governments are functioning. Gen Xers are hitting the power years of their careers, and they've learned to be data-driven decision makers and leaders. They expect their governments to operate in the same way.

I'm technically a Boomer - born in the 1950s -  but I think that the opportunity I had to be part of CompuServe might give me some Gen X credentials. CompuServe was one of the pioneers in the evolution to the online world, providing access to vast amounts of information to anyone, anywhere. I've had an email account continuously for 40 years - well before most people had even heard of such a thing. And I've been a inside observer of the incredible impact the access to information, and the ability to quickly analyze and communicate information, has had on businesses around the globe.

So I think I understand this Gen X ethos. And those who know me know that I'm a data geek. That's the reason I believe our school district should strive to make every bit of information we can accessible to the public, albeit with great care taken to protect the privacy of our students, teachers and leaders.

We should be able to make plans which include measurable goals and expectations so that we can tell if the decisions we make and the actions we take are bearing fruit. It is getting far too expensive to run a public school district without having meaningful, measurable performance data to guide our decisions, in my opinion.

Such data is being collected, and much of it being loaded into a specialized database system called Performance Matters, which was purchased with some of the Race to the Top federal grant money we received. I'm eager to learn more about this system, as I understand that it will allow us to slice and dice tons of performance data in a way that is sure to yield some pretty interesting information.

I hope that we find a way to make a lot of that information available online for everyone to see -- from a macro perspective, not to assess individual performance of either a student or teacher.

My belief is that as long as public schools exist, and are funded in the manner they are now, our school district is forever going to be periodically asking the voters for more money. I believe that the Gen X voters will increasingly ask for access to data which will enable them to independently assess whether additional funding is warranted, and not just rely on levy campaign rhetoric. The days are over when levy campaigns can be centered on emotional appeals (e.g. "if you love your children, vote for the levy!").

You have hopefully just received the latest edition of Passing Notes, the district newsletter. There's lots of good stuff in this issue, including articles by Dr. Marschhausen and Treasurer Brian Wilson. You'll be seeing a good deal of communications from Dr. Marschhausen and our leadership team going forward, including his blog and a monthly column in the local newspaper, Hilliard This Week.

I also encourage you to take advantage of one of the several informal "Coffee Conversations" Dr. Marschhausen will be hosting in the coming weeks. This was something he did regularly during his tenure at Loveland Schools, and we're pleased that he'll be continuing that practice here.


  1. Paul - How does one subscribe to 'Passing Notes' , the district newsletter? This is the first I've heard of it and I didn't see any subscription info on the website. Is it mailed out or emailed?

    1. It's mailed to everyone who lives in the school district. If you're not getting yours, contact Amanda Morris, our Coordinator of School-Community Relations.

  2. I asked my wife and I guess we did get it and I just missed it. I was able to look at it online however.


  3. Paul, I think you might be seriously underestimating the human capacity to ignore facts, logic and reason. Hahaha. Or even worse- to selectively use data to substantiate pre-existing notions.

    You've mentioned Performance Matters before. What was the cost again? I noticed it was 'web-based'. Which usually means that we don't own it, but rent it. Their website has very little information on the product. And for a statistical analysis tool, their marketing approach seems very qualitative.

    1. Just being optimistic!

      Here's a copy of our contract with them, which I requested when I first heard of Performance Matters. It is indeed a "cloud" service which we pay an annual fee of $62,000 to use - apparently based on the number of students enrolled. I think all would agree that this price isn't reflective of the supplier's cost, but rather a pricing structure which recognizes that bigger districts probably got more Race to the Top Money, which is how we're funding this.

      Quite a chunk isn't it, regardless of which of our tax pockets it comes out of? That's why I want to better understand what we're getting out of it.