The Stories Data Tell

Day 160

Part 2 – True Adventures Yet To Be Lived

Chapter 18: The Stories Data Tell

Data tells a story. The dangers of data of course, is that it can tell whatever story you want it to.

Data can be manipulated. This was true in the case against Ivor Memorial and its value among the Board’s network of schools.

For one, it’s capacity as a vocational school was 550 pupil places. At 300 students, 55% utilization doesn’t look good to the Ministry or a local board. That alone, has school closures graffitied all over it.

With much smaller class sizes however, the school was technically at capacity. That didn’t matter to the Ministry however. It’s capacity model was one size fits like inclusion itself. The board already had one remaining facility in its network of schools for low functioning students with such a small population, that the ministry wouldn’t fund a principal for the school.

Second on the lineup of strikes against IMH, was low graduation rates. There were many factors in this category swaying their numbers to the side of closure.

First, many students found their way to IMH from other high schools in the district. This meant that graduation credit was tied to the school in which the student started their secondary education – even if that meant other Boards.

The third factor in these faulty numbers was that many IMH students were guaranteed a place in the system until they were 21, meaning they would fall out of range of graduation rates based on a four year cohort.

The fourth item as it related to grad rates, was hidden from any reports the ministry collected. It was about a sense of belonging. Staying in school and being around positive influences. At least gaining life skills, making new friendships, and feeling important enough to be treated with patience, kindness, and love. How did graduation rates tell the story of the number of students that simply stuck it out for four to eight years even after battling day in and day out the first 10 years of their elementary education?

As well, students with IEP’s writing standardized tests affects any schools scores, never mind a school that is completely geared to these students. You didn’t want to get Jack started on this waste of public funds, especially how it wrongfully and blindly labeled a school like Ivor Memorial. The Fraser Institute used these test score results to ghettoize schools and entire communities. Data doesn’t highlight the many wonderful school and community programs behind the scenes.

Lastly, the board of education didn’t hold IMH in any regard. It should have been a beacon. A flagship for special education training and highlighting what personal inclusion looks like. People had to find the school on their own most often when it should have been a facility the board was proud of for how it changed the lives of its students and their families. Heck, for how it changed the lives of its staff and the many volunteers too. The entire city should have known about this school and held it in the same high regards. Jack himself only learned about Ivor Memorial and what it had come to represent, when the decision to close it had already been made.

The success of this school went so far beyond numbers. When you value a car, you are looking at a guestimated number based on age and mileage but if that car was well maintained, technically it’s worth more. Were those highway miles? Was it oil sprayed? Was it constantly towing a large trailer or moving heavy loads? At least with a car you are comparing the same model vehicle when you are generalizing it’s worth. With IMH, they were comparing a minivan to a Cadillac. Both have their value but a family of four and a young doctor are going to have different evaluations of these vehicles and at different times in their lives.

Jack was great at math. It was always a strong point of his which continued into his career managing digital information and building databases. He knew the power of data and the many ways you could manipulate it. He himself had written many data stories over the years, so seeing information negatively shaped to justify closing a school that didn’t fit into the ambiguous ministry definition of inclusion angered, changed, and inspired jack.

The truth was, there was no data on IMH. This is both because the local board never planned for the school to become what it’s last principal and staff formed it into, and because Board staff didn’t understand it, see any value in it, or wanted it to continue.

There is of course that data that lay between the 1’s and 0’s. Hidden to only those deeply impacted by that with which we try to extract numbers from. Not unlike a great novel leaving much to the imagination, the story of the Ivor Memorial students was really only truly known to those that lived it, and those who took enough time to genuinely listen to what wasn’t easily visible, audible or tangible to those so tangled in political and  corporate edubabble.

The story that data will tell of these IMH students is one that will take a lifetime to formulate. Jack already knew how it would end. So many did. Four years out and the students and staff still talked so fondly of their experience at Ivor Memorial. If his own experiences and the love he still fostered for his own high school was any indicator, Jack knew the result of IMH’s data story would be the same. One of great fondness and admiration for all of those who were touched by that school from the moment it had a purpose instead of a place where misfit staff and students were cast. That’s the data that truly matters where education is concerned.

Math is extremely important. Especially how it empowers us with the tools to tell the other side of the story that the data you’ve been given so carefully omits.

Although it was criminal how IMH met its demise, it was for a good reason. That reason is why Jack (why everyone) was here today.

IMH could have never truly been what it needed and deserved to be the way the system was modeled then.

The time and climate was now ripe for Ivor Memorial’s rebirth. The reality post-IMH’s story was telling was increasing suspensions and expulsions, more students transitioning to alternative learning plans outside of mainstream schools, and new generations of students slipping through educations cracks without a choice like IMH to get them excited about education again.

The ministry and the local board had their shot to get it right. Jack and company were now taking education into their own hands.

Suffocating Creativity

Day 2

Part 1 – Who am I?  But not totally.

Chapter 3:  Suffocating Creativity

It’s exciting being excited about the excitement that writing a story more than 500 words contributes to my spirit. Where the tale will go? How I will get to the conclusion? What adventures will the journey entail and what will I learn about life and myself along the way?

It’s mystical. Magical. It’s so much a part of who I am. That someone I denied to exist for far, far too long and who I continue to ignore at times throughout my ever shortening time on this earth.

I miss creative writing and the peers I used to write with. I do write stories related to my political role from time to time in local community papers. I enjoy sharing space with so many other passionate neighbors throughout the area I live in. So many are selling this great neighborhood on social media and in passing which is an exciting thing to be a part of. Our City is going through a great renaissance so playing any role in that change is empowering.

For someone like me who has lived in this place all of my life, it’s like people are now saying they believe in us too because nobody held any regard for our City up until now. The locals have always seen the beauty in this little big town but when one goes through life hearing others talk smack about your hometown, it kind of defines you as a person as well. We are our towns. They become us. It’s nice that others see our beauty now even if they are a bit tardy.

I’ve been a creative soul as long as I can recall to be honest with myself, so all this seriousness and the drama that often comes with politics and corporate life does eat away at you. I love it all too but there is so much that I wish to see changed.

Having that urge to tell a tale is invigorating and I miss it. I have felt this craving for some time now but I also do enjoy being an advocate. Writing and speaking up in those regards I have found to be more fulfilling in a different way.

I believe a big reason why I have been feeling so lost and unsatisfied with both my jobs as of late is the lack of creativity in my life. Expression. Exploration. Freedom.  Oh how I enjoy drawing with my kids or telling the tales of our lives together as if I were of English decent – well I am two parts English or three if you include my step grandmother.  Those moments are few and far between however.

For one, I am often too exhausted. More so than a man of 44 should be really. I read a story by author Steve Goodier once that talked about skidding in at the end of your life sideways rather than packed up perfect and seemingly unscathed in a perfect, tidy little white box. For me, each day seems like a desperate slide into home plate leaving scars and bruises that take days to recover from. So with a goal of one day skidding in sideways, I feel I must slow down a tad and take my own life by the horns for fear I might fall in backwards unexpectedly before my time.

I love being busy and wanted and needed and important and that my days are full, but I have long tired of sweating the small stuff. I want a different life for me but I also want a different life for everyone. Most importantly, I want a more meaningful future for my girls and their children should they wish to venture into parenting themselves one day – hopefully before I do any final skidding or stumbling myself.

What I should be doing at this stage of my thought process is writing a business plan and in fact I have written one before so I know I can do that. Then there is that desire for creativity in my life. So, I thought why not marry the two needs in an effort to move this rather time-sensitive initiative forward sans some boringly formatted bank proposal, by appealing to the calling inside my spirit that longs to be more free in it’s wonderings.

Why not write this vision as a storyteller? Picturing how it might all unfold to see if I have still sold myself on this concept never mind the many people, the time, and the money it will take to launch such a lofty endeavor?

I will either succeed or fail at gaining your belief, and or your monetary or physical support. That is not what is important. What matters is the journey and what it teaches us about ourselves and the fascinating people we meet along the way.

I often wish I could be more straightforward in my approaches, but I have long since become happy with who I am and how my brain and heart sees the world and my place among those thoughts.

Let us imagine together. Let’s learn. Let’s laugh a lot. Yes even at me. Should all of this lead us forward in the spirit of this dream, all the better. If not, hopefully you at least don’t feel this journey was for not and that you too learned something about others, a missing need, and most of all, yourself.

Let’s first sleep though and draw the curtains on the first day of this written journey shall we. Falling asleep at my desk is one of those odd places I have nodded off before so I do not wish to suffer whiplash before bed this evening. The used mattress I purchased off off a buy and sell website from a chiropractor some six years ago is pain enough each morning never mind other self-prescribed tortures.

Good dreams then.