Educators today are continuously bombarded with data about their schools, classrooms, and individual students. State assessment data is reported for up to 32 tests. Vendor assessments such as M.A.P., DIBELS, TerraNova, AIMSWEB and the suite of tests from ACT are just a few of the examples of data that educators must wade through to make informed decisions about their instruction with the ultimate goal of improving academic achievement. Add in classroom and district created common assessments and it is no wonder that teachers, principals, and administrators are searching for data tools with three essential components: 1) can provide quick and easy access to the data, 2) is simple to use, and 3) can be employed as a point of collaborative work..
Schools gather and collect a great deal of valuable student data that would assist teachers in making instructional decisions, if only it was readily accessible. To really make sense of assessment data, teachers need the ability to view, filter, sort and drill down into data, in any way they deem educationally advantageous. For example, some teachers may want to know which students are “economically disadvantaged and on an I.E..P” or “Hispanic/Latino students who are English Learners and also Gifted”. In addition, teachers need access to each of these student’s individual academic histories to truly create the types of engaging activities and assignments that will get them to the next academic level.
Why is easy access to all of this data so important for today’s teachers? Data is the empirical evidence we have to inform our instruction. The guesswork is eliminated as teachers can drill down to specific academic detailed information about classes, subgroups and individual students and make instructional decisions accordingly. State assessments driven by federal mandates such as No Child left Behind (NCLB) and Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) require teachers in every classroom in America to have a thorough understanding of state standards, know what level of mastery their students have at any given point in time and continually adjust and re-adjust instruction on an individual basis to ensure that students can perform at a high level on those standards. The National Association of Elementary School Principals published an article articulating the importance of data in classroom decision making as well as how collaboration can be enhanced through the study of student data.
Informing teaching through data is a tool that we in education have not always had readily available. While the data has been “there” or ”somewhere”, it certainly has not been easily accessible and in one convenient place creating the need for a technology tool that educators desperately want and need. Dublin City Schools, Ohio’s eleventh largest district, struggled with the challenge of centralizing its assessment data for 16,000 students and disseminating it to 1500 teachers in an easy and quick format. According to Scott Gill, the district’s Technology Director, they were able to resolve these issues with the implementation of DataMap, a ProgressBook solution. Today, Dublin teachers have immediate access to their students’ assessment data, so more time is spent analyzing academic information than organizing it. When it comes to informative instructional data, local and teacher generated assessments often provide equally if not more valuable data than state or vendor assessments. The issue is having one place to quickly access ALL data. Rebecca Alber from Edutopia discusses various ways of using data in this article:
There is no getting around the importance of using data in today’s classrooms. The closer we get to individualized instruction made possible through the technology available today the more we need to synthesize the plethora of academic detail available about each of our students. In that way, we can carefully and thoughtfully craft an educational journey appropriate for every student.