A Blog Covering D.C. Education [ABCDE]

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Aug 17 2010

When Data Analysis, Instead of Clarifying, Perplexes


TFA is a data-driven organization. We have mastery trackers, reading growth trackers, attendance trackers, behavior trackers–you name it.  If there’s a dimension to a child’s education that has yet to be quantified, I will bet that someone in TFA–whether a current CM or staff–is coming up with a decent, valid, aligned, efficient way to measure it.

Of course, I can’t make too much fun of this tendency, since I like–and have always liked–data. There’s something fascinating to me about accumulating a large base of statistics from which I can discover trends, draw conclusions, or formulate theories.

Even before I began teaching, I meticulously logged my own physiological data. For example, 4.5 years ago, on Tuesday, February 14, 2006, as training, in the afternoon (time unspecified), I ran 9.5 miles in 1 hour, 13 minutes and 22 seconds, at an average heart rate of 153 bpm and a maximum heart rate of 186 bpm.  More specifically, I ran 15 minutes to warm up; did intervals of 3, 5, 4, 3 and 2 minutes with less than 100% rest; and warmed down for 33 minutes.  My average pace per mile was 7 minutes and 43 seconds.  I had slept 6.5 hours the night before, and though I will not share my weight, my body fat was at 10.5%.  Have I made clear how much I enjoy tracking data?

Though tracking data is intrinsically enjoyable, analyzing data–actually looking at it carefully and seeing what lessons can be learned–is mind-blowing. I love experiencing those “a-ha!” moments when I finally discover why X is the case, or how I know Y will occur in the future or what impact Z will have.

Unfortunately, I often get into the lazy habit of collecting data without actually poring over it (for example, I’m sure that tonight was the first time I had ever looked at my training data from February 14, 2006).


With the new and updated Teach For Us website, I, like every other blogger, now have access to Google Analytics. What’s great about this service is that I really have no excuse not to look at the site data because Google cuts it up in many convenient and interesting ways.  So, I decided to look at my blog’s stats.

Looking at my dashboard, I immediately noticed that my post on TFA’s cultishness had more than 2x the pageviews as the second most popular post (at least since I’ve had access to Google Analytics data, since mid-Julyish).

Intrigued, I looked closer to figure out why. One of the ways you can look at your data on Google Analytics is by “Entrance Keywords.”  Basically, Google shows you what keyword phrases people typed in to the search engine before reaching your site.  I clicked and Google showed me a list of keyword phrases searched.

What I found perplexed me (take a look for yourself):

One inference that I drew from this is that there are at least a few people in this world who will do whatever it takes to dig up dirt on Michelle Rhee, our fearless Chancellor. I can imagine these people’s inner dialogues as they were typing in the search phrases:

Come on, people–seriously–Michelle Rhee “DOESN’T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT TEACHING.” Like, totally!

Please confirm that what Bill Turque and Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post write about Michelle Rhee is true. Please prove to me that “MICHELLE RHEE [IS] NOT LIKED BY EDUCATORS” so that I know I’m not alone in this sentiment.

Michelle Rhee, you should really “DO THE RIGHT THING!” Do what’s best for the children: IMPACT your own @$$ out of DCPS!

“WHO DID MICHELLE RHEE TEACH WITH IN BALTIMORE,” so that I might track him or her down and get him or her to confess that Rhee did not actually make the achievement gains with her students that she claimed she did!

But, as you may have noticed, I’ve yet to mention the most popular keyword search. Here is where you come in.

If you can offer a plausible reason for why 22 hits came from people searching “MICHELLE RHEE NOT FINISHING TFA”–far more than from any other–I’ll send you a postcard (no joke!) to thank you for helping to solve one of the deepest mysteries of this nation’s education reform movement.

Good luck.
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One Response

  1. Glad to see the analytics are proving to have use. Hehe.

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Really, "A Blog Covering Dilemmas in Education": A (former) English teacher's reflections…

D.C. Region
High School

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