One way that technology can have a profound impact on student achievement is when teachers use data to inform their instruction. The key to making this happen consistently in classrooms is to implement technology tools that provide actionable insights for teachers, establish clear practices around the use of data to improve instruction and then train teachers to follow these practices.
In my district, we aggregate data from a number of different sources to create an “on track” score for every child. This information helps teachers develop academic plans for students and get them the interventions they need.
Here are three important lessons we have learned from our experience.
Tie together assessment and data management. Look for a data management system that integrates your assessment platforms. Our district uses multiple platforms, including the Measures of Academic Progress online benchmark exams from the Northwest Evaluation Association; iStation, for monthly formative assessments in reading and math; and DIBELS and Text Reading Comprehension to students in elementary school.
We chose Illuminate Education’s Data and Assessment system to help us analyze our collected data. It pulls data automatically from all our assessment systems so that we can get a big-picture view of our students’ progress in one place.
Develop customized reports for each grade level. The “on track” reports we compile for each student are unique to grade level; we look at different data sets for each. Reports include the data that are tracked for students in that particular grade, plus attendance and behavioral data.
Teachers are using these reports during conferences with parents and in Teacher-Based-Team meetings. In TBT meetings, teachers discuss which students need interventions and which methods would work best. Our goal is to match students with the appropriate level of help.
Make the data work together. When all of these data points are working together, the results can be quite powerful. If we only look at attendance information, or if we just look at scores from one set of assessments, we can’t see the entire picture. A student might be doing fine in one area, but show warning signs in another. By having multiple data points working together, educators can get a complete picture for each student—and this helps them make better decisions about each child’s precise learning needs.
John LaPlante is the chief information officer for the Youngstown City Schools in Ohio.
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