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Data Strategies to Uncover and Eliminate Hidden Inequities

Data Strategies to Uncover and Eliminate Hidden Inequities
The Wallpaper Effect

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November 2012 | 312 pages | Corwin

"Ruth Johnson and Robin Avelar La Salle provide a comprehensive overview of how to use data to provoke questions that lead to the kind of quality education that all students deserve. This book should be required reading in every school district."
—Gary Anderson, Professor
New York University, NY

"Equity warriors everywhere will find this useful resource packed with effective strategies, user-friendly processes, and helpful tools."
—Jennifer Frentress, Director of Teaching and Learning
Forest Grove School District, OR

Uncover buried data to close the achievement gap!

Standardized test scores and other outcome-based data are useful tools, but they also paint an incomplete picture that papers over the cracks in our education system. Peel away the layers, however, and you discover hidden factors that contribute to the achievement gap and chronic low school performance.

Ruth S. Johnson and Robin Avelar La Salle dramatically illustrate how data from nontraditional sources—disciplinary policies, teacher attendance, special education referrals, and more—can be used to uncover and eliminate systemic inequities. This solution-focused guide:

  • Helps you identify sources of data and questions to ask
  • Examines disparities in graduation rates, special education placement, and the achievement of English learners
  • Includes data exercises to help you analyze your school or district as you read

Data Strategies to Uncover and Eliminate Hidden Inequities arms you with the tactics you need to challenge the status quo and take decisive action.


About the Authors
Part I. The Need for the Other Data
1. The Wallpaper Effect: Uncovering Inequties Using the Other Data
Scenario: Student Court Case Testimony


Key Roles for Data: Traditional and Other Data

The Data Context: Unfulfilled Promises

The Wallpaper Effect: Making the Invisible Visible


2. Peeling the Wallpaper: Uncovering Inequities
Scenario: Martin Luther King Jr. High School


Organizing for Meaningful Inquiry

The Achievement Gap

Peeling off Layers of Data

Application of the Levels of Analysis

Peeling the Data at Cortez Intermediate School

Data-Bite Exercises


Part II: Peeling the Wallpaper off Everyday Inequities
3. The Journey Through School: Starting With the End in Mind
Scenario: Kyle


Graduating and Dropping Out: The Status of the K?12 Pipeline

Calculation Confusion: What Is the Real Graduation and Dropout Picture?

Examining the Bottleneck

Stemming the Leakages

Gathering Data

College Readiness

College Attendance and Family Income


4. Special Education and Gifted and Talented
Scenario: Precious Cantor


Students Receiving Special Education Services: The Broad Context

Windows Into Belief Systems: The Inevitability Assumption and the Normalization of Failure

Changing Expectations and Behaviors, Changing Outcomes

Time in General Education

Disproportionate Representation

Peeling Back to Examine Other Data

A Discussion About Culture

Service Not Labels

Students Receiving Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) Services


5. English Learners

Challenging Conventional Wisdom about Programs for EL Students

A Case on Transforming the Status Quo

Profile of BAUSD EL Students

Peeling Off the Layers

Data as an Instigator of Equity-Minded Action


6. Nonacademic Indicators Associated With Achievement Outcomes
Scenario: Titan Middle School


Rethinking Time

Discipline: Exclusion and Loss of Learning Time


Extracurricular Participation

Facilities and Program Quality

Student Voice and Social Networks


7. Systemic Inequties: Structures, Policies, and Practices
Scenario: Award Winning School District


Common Roots of Systemic Challenges to Equity and Achievement


Part III: Changing Our Current Normal
8. Increasing Equity Muscle

The Context: The Need to Increase Equity Muscle

Reframing and Challenging What Appears "Normal" and Natural

The Need for Dialogue

Organizing to Use the Other Data

The Need For Culturally Responsive Systems

The Need for Leadership

The Need for Student Advocacy

Who Is Missing From the Table?


Appendix A: Overview of Other Data
Appendix B: Sample Data-Bite Resonses (Chapter 2)
Appendix C: Summary of Main Points Gathered Through Interviews (Chapter 7)
Annotated Resources


Supplemental Resources Website
Complete with loads of data from non-traditional sources such as disciplinary policies, teacher attendance, special education referrals, and more, as well as templates for compiling and analyzing your own data, this companion site to Data Strategies to Uncover and Eliminate Hidden Inequities is a must for any leader to help eliminate systemic inequities.

"Systemic barriers inhibiting progress for culturally and linguistically diverse students do exist. The 'Other Data' found in this book will spark the necessary inquiry to surface the roots of these challenges and ultimately lead to the elimination of inequitable outcomes plaguing our schools. Equity warriors everywhere will find this useful resource packed with effective strategies, user-friendly processes, and helpful tools." 

Jennifer Frentress, Director of Teaching and Learning
Forest Grove School District, OR

"This book provides numerous and explicit examples of ways to use hidden data to reveal the other truths behind student achievement and to inform decision-making processes. The authors spell out for practitioners the 'So what?' and 'What now?' aspects that many practitioners find challenging after analyzing data. I highly recommend this book for teachers, counselors, site and district administrators, parents, and any other stakeholders interested in using data as a tool to identify gaps in access and opportunities for success in school and beyond."

Tonia Causey-Bush, Director of Research, Evaluation, and Accountability
CAHSEE Intensive Instruction and Services Program, Rialto Unified School District, CA

“This easily digestible guide takes a real-world approach at revealing the truth behind student and school assessments. The 'Your Turn' activities are elegant in their flexibility and simplicity. The Wallpaper Effect should be required reading for both novice and veteran educators."

Keisha L. Bentley, Assistant Professor of Educational Psychology
The University of Texas at Austin

"This volume provides an energizing alternative to accounts that press for even more attention to numbers. The ‘wallpaper’ metaphor offers powerful suggestions for uncovering inequities, and the rich portrayals offer words of advice to those who care about the education of our nation’s children."


Robert Calfee, Professor Emeritus
Stanford University School of Education

"My teachers and I have used Dr. Johnson’s previous work to dramatically increase student outcomes at the elementary and high school level. Data Strategies recognizes the complexity of the context of student learning and how effective schools use more than just “snap shot” data sources to reveal what impacts student learning the most in your specific school. Data Strategies gives real-world examples and step-by-step strategies for involving students, families, teachers, and principals in culturally responsive leadership. Using data to uncover inequities in our schools is a powerful, transformative, and critical strategy for the long-term success of all our children. Data Strategies provides hope for all our schools in a compelling, thoughtful way."

Deborah Peterson, Retired Principal
Portland Public Schools

"Dr. Johnson brings together compelling evidence to create understanding and urgency around improving learning for ALL students. The book's case studies and charts provide undeniable evidence that disparities do exist, but also offer hope through powerful real-life success stories."

Sara Arispe, Executive Director, Accountability and Data Quality
Fort Worth Independent School District, TX

"Schools can’t make up for the fact that we as a society have left many of our children behind. But schools can make a difference for a lot more children than they currently do. Ruth Johnson and Robin Avelar La Salle provide a comprehensive overview of how to use data to provoke questions that lead to the kind of quality education that all students deserve. This book should be required reading in every school district."

Gary Anderson, Professor
Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, New York University

"It serves as a valuable resource for educational leaders striving to be both fluent with accountability discourse and sophisticated in tackling educational inequities. Rather than denouncing what is weak, Johnson and La Salle provide guidance to help educators take seriously their obligation to craft effective teaching and learning environments and to do so with transparency and aplomb."

Martin Scanlan
Marquette University
The Journal of Educational Research, 2012

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