Moneyball for Schools


I’ve been intrigued for several years in the idea of applying “big data” and analytics to the field of education. I’ve seen the power of statistics in sports, city government, transportation, policing, etc. I recently completed Data-driven Decision Making, a course taught by Dr. Craig Hochbein and Abby Mahone at Lehigh University. It is part of my doctoral program at the school.

Dr. Hochbein challenges much of conventional/traditional thinking of schools and he made me and many of us in the class, reconsider what we take for granted in education. Craig referred to the movie Moneyball often during the course. The movie portrays Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane, the first to use advanced metrics in baseball to find players overlooked by the bigger teams. The A’s did not have a fair playing field against teams with larger payrolls and needed to find ways to compete with a smaller payroll. He did so by using statistics to find players that were undervalued by other teams. The same is true for many of our schools, we need to find ways to overcome the handicaps of our various situations.

The challenge for school leaders is collecting data. Unlike baseball, every action is not tracked. The class renewed my enthusiasm for collecting more data. Besides digging deeper in the school archives for test scores, one can use technology to help. Above is a sensor that takes in location data. For example, as a school leader, I can see how much time I am in my office, when it may be better to be visible in the school. WiFi access points can also be used to track if you have an iPhone. There are even sensors that track if one is sitting or standing or breathing rate to measure activity amounts or stress.

The major project was a balanced scorecard which emphasizes finding evidence and asking the right questions and making sure the data you are collecting is answering the most important question. Below are my notes from the class.

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