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Using Data: Useful Data

All data are not created equal, so how do I choose?

Most schools would not claim to be lacking data about students. In fact, the opposite is likely true. Schools are inundated with data, often making it difficult for leaders and teachers to know what data are useful, or how to use existing data in a way that is useful. Schools need to know how to do two things: select data that can be used to improve student learning, and make the data useful for teachers to do the analysis of the data.

Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted. Albert Einstein

Learning Target

I can identify useful data to analyze.

Review: Three Dimensions of Student Achievement

EL Education, 2014.

Increasing student achievement and closing the achievement gap are critical goals for schools across the United States. However, too often the complex terrain of student achievement is reduced to the set of indicators that is easiest to assess with standardized tools. EL Education pursues an expanded view of student achievement that takes into account three distinct dimensions of achievement. This makes data that corresponds to each dimension valuable for schools to analyze. 

Read Dimensions of Student Achievement in EL Schools for more detailed explanations of each dimension of achievement. 

Read: Using Various Measures

The following two texts, in conjunction, provide several reasons to consider multiple sources of data to analyze, and the types of data schools should consider. 

Using Various Measures of Data: This EL Education document (download from this page) discusses the different types of data and why analyzing these data points together can paint a more comprehensive vision for improving student achievement.

Developing the Systems to Support and Deepen Using Data with Students: This excerpt from Leaders of Their Own Learning (download from this page) explores creative ways of collecting and storing student data. 

While reading, please consider the following questions:

  1. What problem are you trying to solve? What areas of student achievement, behavior, or engagement are a struggle for your classroom or school?
  2. What does your school measure currently, and what message does this measurement send to students and teachers in terms of school values?

Try it: Conduct a Data Audit

  1. Read Conducting a Data Audit. Use the suggested protocol as a grade level or leadership team to identify existing data points and how (and if) they are collected, organized, analyzed and acted upon. 
  2. Download and review the Sample School Data Inventory. Download the template to identify what data is collected and what would make it useful based on existing external and internal assessment tools.

Watch: Schoolwide Structures for Using Data with Students

Once a school has determined what data are most useful to measure the intended outcomes, the data itself needs to be represented in a way that makes it easy for teachers and leaders to take action. Use evidence from the video, to answer the questions below:

  1. What systems and structures made data useful at World Of Inquiry?
  2. What conditions were in place at World of Inquiry that made these systems and structures effective?
  3. What systems, structures and conditions at your school would support data teams? What systems, structures and conditions need to be revised or added to support data teams?

Synthesize & Take Action

For Teachers...

  1. What data points are you currently using to inform instruction and increase student achievement in your classroom? What would help you turn evidence into more useful data to inform your instruction?
  2. There are many types of data that schools use to track improvement and achievement. Which types of data—demographics, school processes, student learning, and perception—do you use at your school? What other types of data will you consider to identify high-impact next steps? 

For School Leaders...

  1. What structures need to be in place so your school can collect, organize, analyze and act upon data in a timely and effective manner?
  2. What measures of student success and achievement are you tracking in your school data? Do these data points align with your school’s mission and vision around student achievement at your school? If not, what other data points will you consider?

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EL Education

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