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Cross-Boundary Leader: Aimee Rogstad Guidera (DC EPFP 97-98)

Posted By Shaina Cook, Thursday, November 19, 2015


Cross-Boundary Leader

Aimee Rogstad Guidera (DC EPFP 97-98)

Aimee Rogstad Guidera is President and CEO of the Data Quality Campaign (DQC), a national nonprofit organization leading the effort to empower educators, students, parents, and policymakers with the information they need to make the best decisions to improve student outcomes. Prior to founding DQC in 2005, Guidera served as the director of the Washington, DC, office of the National Center for Educational Achievement. She also served as the vice president of programs for the National Alliance of Business, worked in the education division of the National Governors Association’s Center for Best Practices, and taught for the Japanese Ministry of Education. Named one of TIME’s 12 Education Activists of 2012, Guidera is a Pahara-Aspen Education Fellow and serves on the board of directors for the Institute for Educational Leadership and the Friends of the Hennepin County (Minnesota) Library.

The Importance of Data

We believe at the Data Quality Campaign that when students, parents, educators, and policymakers have the right data in the right format at the right time, students achieve their best. We have the data infrastructure in place now to transform education for every child in this country. But there is a lot that needs to happen for this goal to be a reality.

One big misconception is that data is just a test score, but in reality, it is so much more. The richer the information we’re able to access, the more we can use it to improve student and system performance with the goal of boosting student achievement. Data includes everything from course patterns and grades to interventions, attendance, and comprehension to what teachers collect in the moment as students understand content.

Data becomes more powerful when you connect data points together and show a richer picture of how a student is progressing. When used well, it can change decisions and actions and, most importantly, results. Every state now has the ability to collect the data necessary to inform decision-making about the teaching and learning process to positively impact students’ lives, and it’s important that we do this in a way that supports every student. When we empower everyone with a stake in education with the information they need in the format they need it, we get results.

Data doesn’t change anything unless it’s answering a question someone has and is presented in a way that is tailored to people’s needs. At DQC, we’re working with policymakers to help them start conversations around data and frame data to answer questions. The most important thing is to build demand for data and information that is useful. I think the biggest culture change in education is using data not as a compliance or accountability tool but for continuous improvement and answering people’s questions in order to improve decision-making and ideas.

Data Privacy

We collect data to improve our decision-making in every aspect of life, from choosing a restaurant to picking a textbook. The more we use data, the more we wonder who has access to this personal information, how it is maintained, how it is used, and what security measures are in place to protect it.

Three years ago, there was only one piece of state legislation passed regarding student data privacy. This year, 46 states introduced 182 bills on the topic. It’s a very important conversation that we need to have, and I think many of the legitimate concerns emanate from the lack of transparency about what types of data are collected, how it’s collected and stored, and how it will be used to improve schools and benefit students.

The most important thing we can do is build trust among students, parents, educators, and the public that this information is being used well, is kept secure, and adds value to education reform. At DQC, we provide guidance, support, and assistance to policymakers about how to leverage the power of data in the service of student learning. One part of this work is the analysis of state legislation and the increased activity in Congress about student data privacy.

Leadership in Education

Our field needs strong leadership and leaders who aren’t afraid to be creative and innovative. One of the reasons I’m hopeful for the future of the education sector is the quality of individuals who have chosen to enter this field, especially in leadership positions across schools, systems, nonprofits, and the government. The amazing quality of individuals in education has increased over the 25 years I’ve been in this field, and that changes everything. These individuals bring passion, commitment, and laser-like focus on what this conversation needs to be about. They bring the innovation that education needs in order to reflect on what is and isn’t working and to be open to new ideas.

Programs like the Pahara Fellowship and EPFP help to provide forums for leaders to come together and reflect on what the field needs, what it takes to be a strong and successful leader, and to learn what others are doing. These venues not only create vibrancy and help people who want to try new things, but they also encourage leaders to work across traditional silos and collaborate.

Cross-Boundary Leadership and Challenges

One of the big themes of my work at DQC is the need for data to follow individuals wherever they go across systems, state lines, and sectors. For example, if we want to know if a high school is adequately preparing its graduates for adult life, we need feedback from postsecondary and workforce systems about how many graduates go on to get jobs, the wages they earn, and if they need remediation classes.

It’s so important that we break down silos and have conversations across systems and sectors to better understand what we’re all trying to do and how we can help each other help prepare students for life. This effort needs cross-sector leadership, collaboration, and governance so policies are aligned and not duplicative to meet needs at every turning point to prepare students for success. I think we’re getting to this point in policy conversations as we realize that schools can’t do that by themselves. Communities, families, and other partners play a major role and we need to think more holistically about how these sectors can work together as an aligned and integrated system to ensure our fellow citizens are prepared for an increasingly competitive global economy.

Leadership Lessons Learned

I think leadership really boils down to harnessing the power of people to work toward a common goal. Nothing is more rewarding than working collaboratively with a team of talented, committed, passionate individuals on a shared effort that leads to measurable impact. You can have all kinds of systems or management tools in place, but if you don’t have a well-functioning team, then nothing works. The key to having a successful team is not only hiring great people but supporting them as they go along. This includes having transparency around desired goals and expectations, building trust through a strong commitment to openness, and recognizing and celebrating excellence at every point, not just when the results are achieved. Effective leadership is about supporting the team along the journey, not just getting to the destination. It makes the process much more enjoyable for everyone that way!

EPFP Experience and Value

I loved my EPFP experience for many reasons. Many of us are conscious of representing our organizations when we interact with others, so it was liberating to have a space where people could gather, learn, and discuss questions in their own voice. As a fellow, I developed leadership and management skills and tools that I still use today. It really allowed me to build a better understanding of my field, particularly through learning from my peers. The networking opportunities were terrific as well, and I’m still in touch with many of the folks in my cohort. EPFP alumni are a powerful group, and the network is what makes it exciting to join in the program and become close with your cohort.

The program has grown so much over its 52 years, but all of the people who have participated have a shared experience and the opportunity to continue learning from each other. The ability to interact with other leaders and develop your own skills and knowledge is immeasurably important to individuals, and EPFP is integral in ensuring we are able to continue supporting and growing critical talent in the education field. I believe so deeply in the value of the EPFP program that, over the past 15 years and in three organizations, I have made participation in the DC EPFP program part of our professional development strategy.


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