Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Data, data, data

(If you skim this post, make sure to catch the site links!)

I'm sitting in an intense presentation about using data to make instructional decisions. Today's full day session is an overview of the importance of data and an exploration of several methods of examining data. This is in preparation for our follow up training using our new technology tool that will give teachers/principals/the district access to incredible amounts of data that can be organized in a variety of ways. (I must admit that this tool seems to pack a whole lot of power.)

Tapping into my love for math and numbers and my past experiences in diving into data as a math department chairperson, this presentation is right up my alley. It's bringing back lots of memories--- not only the late nights of sorting through data and creating visual representations that made the data easy to understand quickly-- but also my passion for using data to improve student achievement.

We're focusing on 100% Stacked Graphs and Scatter Plots--- boy does this ever answer our students' questions of when will I ever use this math lesson. It's amazing to see the power of adding a line on these graphs and comparing student performance from year to year. I know I can't capture this in words...but trust me, it's amazing to look at one graph and end up with 4 conclusions --1) meeting standard and improved over last year, 2) meeting standard and decreased performance compared to last year, 3) not meeting standard, but showed improvement over last year, and finally 4) not meeting standard, and decreased performance compared to last year. While it's very exciting data to have access to, I can also remember the anxiety.... I'm not sure I would have handled knowing that I had students in category 2 or 4. That's harsh to feel like I've failed students. I know there are always other factors that come into play, but none the less.... No matter what, access to this data will have powerful implications.

This software will work with previous years' data as well as current formative and summative assessments. Another very cool feature of this software is the ability to click a button and get a matrix that will split your students into groups for re-teaching, enriching, etc... So cool! What a time saving feature.

Two websites have been mentioned that no one in the room was familiar with....
  • Just4kids.org -- go ahead, find a school you care about-- you'll see the basic info. Now take it to the next level.... do an opportunity gap analysis. This will compare your school to other schools that teach a similar population and provides an opportunity gap. This site is doing extensive research to identify the factors that make successful schools function-- check out the research section.
  • schoolmatters.com --provides more data and analysis features (I didn't explore this one as much so I'm not too familiar about the features!)

Understanding the power of these sites should compel all of us to dive into the data a little more so we are informed when the public starts asking questions.

My questions---
  • As this develops it's obvious that the next step will be using this data to compare/rank teachers (and even being able to factor in the varying levels of difficulty represented by each child).... how will this impact our teachers?
  • How long will it take to train teachers and school-based staff to use this data effectively so that it is integrated into all decision making?

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