‘Data Walls’ Draw Fire From Holyoke Parents And Teachers

Parents and teachers in Holyoke, Massachusetts are petitioning the school committee to stop the use of so-called “data walls” that publicly display student achievements in classrooms.

“Data walls” chart students’ progress on assignments and tests, with the aim of boosting performance. But some parents and teachers in Holyoke say the displays do more harm than good.

“This information is really public humiliation for children,” says Paula Burke, a parent of a third grader. “If you think about a kid who is below level, they know exactly where they are on that chart with everyone else’s reading level, and whether other children know it or not, it really does a lot of damage to a child’s self esteem.”

Holyoke Superintendent Sergio Paez says the charts are used throughout the school district, and says they keep students anonymous.

“Obviously [we are] preserving the privacy, and ensuring that it is productive, and is progressive, and is helpful to our students,” Paez says. “If it is not following those conditions, then it is not being implemented correctly.”

Paez says data walls are a common practice in public schools around the country. Paez is in his first year in Holyoke, and has stressed the use of data to help turn around the struggling district.