Monday, June 20, 2011

The Data Driven School

Positive Aspects of Using Data

It is an interesting process to sit back and take a bird's eye view at the processes that are being done in my school district with respect to collection and use of that data within the school and classroom. There are many positive aspects of using data to drive school wide decisions. I will speak specifically about the Reading High Mathematics Department, which is where I teach. We have over twenty mathematics teachers in the high school, so it is good to take a look at our specific group.

From a school wide perspective, it is beneficial to have data for all students in the school for a number of reasons. First, if there is a desire to group students with higher or lower competencies, this type of schoolwide data can help to group students appropriately. Second, it is easy to spot trends – either good or bad – which may be happening throughout the entire student population. This can give the school and teachers the ability to focus and/or refocus the curriculum accordingly.

Regarding individual students, it is helpful to look at the data and to help the students see, for example, how close they may be to being “Proficient” or “Advanced” in certain categories. For example, when our students take the 4Sight exams each quarter, their math teachers get their results. So, besides reviewing the exam questions in whole to determine the trends and look at which areas need further review, we can also look at the results with individual students and help them raise their scores to Proficient or Advanced.

Technological and Cultural Challenges at Reading School District

One thing that I believe would be helpful would be to have regular reports sent by email to teachers regarding the students within their classes. The challenges that I see is that I am not 100% certain that reports can be grouped by individual classes at the current time. So when the students take exams, it is a challenging logistical effort to sort the tests by individual teacher. I believe that some of the aspects of the technology are in place, but am not 100% sure that it is ready for “prime time” use.

Integrating Data Driven Decisions in the Mathematics Classroom

Once the correct tools are in place, the data can be used in my classroom to focus on the areas where most of the students are struggling. If my students are doing well on Order of Operations but not doing well on Work and Rate Problems, I can focus my classroom lessons appropriately. If individual students are struggling in specific areas, I can customize Study Island lessons which will help them to raise their level of proficiency.

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