Dr. Richard Bowman has served on Education Analytics’ (EA) Board of Directors since 2021 and currently serves as the Board President. Dr. Bowman has worked in education for more than two decades. After earning his doctorate at the Pardee RAND Graduate School in Policy Analysis (Quantitative Methods and Education Policy), he worked with Albuquerque Public Schools as a Harvard Graduate School Strategic Data Project Fellow; his work aimed to increase the strategic use of data and accountability through the Strategic Data Project at Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Center for Education Policy.
While in New Mexico, Dr. Bowman was asked to serve on the state teacher evaluation advisory council (NMTEACH) and spent four years at Santa Fe Public Schools as the Chief Information and Strategy Officer, where he led the digital learning, technology, accountability, and data analysis initiatives of the district. Deeply committed to equity in education, he returned to Albuquerque Public Schools in 2016 to continue his strategic approach to improving educational outcomes for all students and the collaborative implementation of educational technology. Currently, Dr. Bowman is a Board Member of the Association for Education Finance and Policy and the Chief Information and Strategy Officer at Albuquerque Public Schools.
We had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Dr. Bowman about the challenges impacting education and data spaces, what excites him the most about being affiliated with EA, and how he thinks the field is going to change in the future.
Looking back on the last 10 years of your involvement in the education and data spaces, what do you think have been the biggest challenges in these fields and how have you seen those challenges overcome?
DR. BOWMAN: I’d say broadly, there have been challenges impacting data use and data infrastructure. The data use challenge is developing, demonstrating, and accessing the world of capabilities in education to the policymakers and practitioners that implement change. We call them change makers. What’s possible in data use has become so expansive that it can be difficult to conceptualize the implications to all the stakeholders that need to be involved in the effective use of data. This is a variation of what's going on in technology, which is that its evolution has enabled so many possibilities that there's just been a scramble to take advantage of it. Those who can utilize it [technology] most effectively are seeing better outcomes for what they’re trying to do in their industry.
And what’s been done to meet this challenge? I would say there’s been a persistent focus on trying to make the data more accessible and visual. One of the cool things has been the development of data visualization tools that are more accessible to the mass market. I think there’s just been more of a recognition that the use of data is important. I’m kind of expanding past the traditional, data analyst types to folks who are more focused on making sure that the data is visual, understandable, and easily accessible. This has been one of the focuses of the Strategic Data Project, to help target that more strategic use of data, and after more than a decade, they’ve made a substantial impact on education. As has Education Analytics.
On the data infrastructure side, I’d say the biggest challenge has been interoperability. For years, and even now, data analysts spend the bulk of their time collecting and cleaning data as opposed to analyzing the data or presenting findings. A good chunk of that is because the data systems storing the data are not interoperable. There’s an entire other world of possibilities that is enabled by systems that work with each other, allowing for interoperability. One of the ways this challenge has been addressed is through the development of Ed-Fi. The ecosystem around Ed-Fi has also been critical. Simply having the [Ed-Fi] standard means nothing if it’s not implemented. Education Analytics’ work on Ed-Fi has been instrumental. I’d also like to highlight the Council of Great City Schools in that they’ve also met together with a cohort of Chief Information Officers (CIOs) to work on interoperability in the largest urban districts.
What excites you the most about being affiliated with EA?
DR. BOWMAN: It’s exciting to be involved with an organization that is actively and successfully moving the field of effective data use forward to help better student outcomes in education. As an engineer by training, I appreciate the process of what it takes to build something new on a system with numerous constraints. It has been rewarding to help build EA and to be involved in data infrastructure that has so much potential for good. One of the other exciting things, recently, is the work on how artificial intelligence (AI) will impact the field, and AI will, substantially.
Looking to the future, how do you think EdTech/Ed-Fi will impact education in the next 5 to 10 years?
DR. BOWMAN: In the future, I see that there will be a world where our data systems work better together, enabling cross-functional analysis across multiple departments or functional areas and covering the entire spectrum of human surfaces in the government. What this will do is provide teachers with better information so that they can teach more effectively, but more importantly, more efficiently. These interoperable systems will provide students with an environment where more adults are aware and responsive to their needs, and these systems will provide families with more certainty about what is happening in the education and wellbeing of their children. At the state level with our policymakers and change makers, these systems will allow them to have more timely and useful data to help inform their decisions closer to real-time. And overall, these connected systems will help to improve the effective functioning of the government, saving us all tax dollars.
If you’re interested in learning more about EA’s Board of Directors, click here. To learn more about Dr. Bowman’s work with EA regarding generative AI in education, stay tuned for updates about his session, “Data Interoperability & AI: Veggies Before Dessert,” with EA’s CEO Andrew Rice at SXSW EDU 2024.
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