Data has a bad reputation in education and is synonymous with standardized test scores and has primarily been used to punish our teachers rather than support student learning. If you ask any teacher what their opinion is on standardized testing, you better be ready for an earful. Most standardized testing is given only once at the end of the school year. By the time teachers receive the data, those students are now in another teacher’s classroom. To make matters worse, teachers are told to never analyze the test questions and go over the answers with their students to fill in the gaps of student knowledge. The entire time the teacher and students have access to the test, it is under lock and key and told that no one shall speak of it any further. Sounds like a recipe for success.
Test results have historically been used as accountability and compliance and tied to the worthiness of teachers. Many states wanted to tie standardized test results with teacher evaluations or performance pay. The hope was that teachers would review the results of this one test, reflect on their teaching practices and make changes to improve. This implies teachers are unmotivated, our schools are failing, and measuring our students and teachers on one test is the only measurement that counts. If our only measurement is one standardized test given once at the end of the school year, locked in a safe and no one is ever allowed to speak about it, how is this useful to anyone? These once a year standardized tests must be valuable to someone, but these people certainly have never worked in a school with students.
Using data to create a culture of collaborative inquiry
All students need to be given multiple chances to learn and improve and the data needs to be relevant and valuable to everyone who has a stake in educating them. In addition, valuable data over time can be used to guide school improvement and build a districtwide culture of inquiry for sound decision-making to meet a school’s purpose and vision. As educators, it is important we use data with fidelity and set intentional goals, as well as evaluate our systems and policies in place. When we all have the right information to make decisions, all students can excel, everyone is empowered and changes can be made in the right direction.
School leaders and teachers can all become data experts
- Everyone is clear on the purpose and goal of the data collection and analysis.
- Data is used as an equity audit to evaluate policies, or practices that limit access to opportunity for all students.
- Data is reviewed to understand where different student groups and communities are relative to the vision and goals of a school or district.
- Data is collected, analyzed, communicated and used in multiple measures to continuously improve all aspects of teaching and learning.
- Data is transformed into information and then into action to improve all aspects of the learning process for all students.
- Data is used as a tool for growth, rather than judgment. This will require colleagues to be vulnerable with one another and are more likely to honestly share their challenges and problem-solve together as a team.
- It is important to provide training, conferences and assistance to educators based on the data, because data-driven decision-making requires new knowledge and skills to be developed. Teachers must be supported.
- Data-use practices need to support and motivate students, rather than deflate or demotivate them.
Teaching without data is like driving to an unknown destination without directions. A lot of valuable time is wasted and we never get where we need to be. Educators need to understand the how and why of data in order for it to be effective. When it is not being used effectively, all students will not receive the support they need to move forward nor can teachers support their diverse population of students. With a data-driven culture, districts and schools can begin to take immediate action in supporting their students and teachers and begin to have a clear direction to their next destination.
Horizon Education coursework/benchmark assessment and data solution
- We help districts and schools measure and analyze growth over time with diagnostic PSAT/NMSQT/SAT or PreACT/ACT aligned assessments, including detailed score reports and analysis which address all diverse learners.
- Immediate feedback is provided with detailed score reports. This allows a teacher to immediately intervene, to change course, or to offer new challenges for students who have mastered a concept or skill.
- Students with disabilities will have appropriate accommodations based on their 504 plan or IEP.
- We have incorporated a Guided Thinking component to our coursework. The purpose is to guide students to the right mindset that allows them to get the most out of their benchmarks: get comfortable, relax, set your intention, reflect on your progress, create an emotional plan, create a plan for your testing tools, and create a plan for distractions.
- Spring and summer SAT and ACT Bootcamps are available for all schools and districts to begin gathering data.
- Districts or schools may fund benchmarks/coursework/Bootcamps for their students at no cost to their families and at the same time prepare any student to take the actual exam in the future if they choose to take it.
- Students and families will be educated on the waiver system available for financial need to take the SAT or the ACT if they choose to take it.
Student transferable skills
- All populations of students develop transferable skills for adulthood:
- College and Career Skills - goal setting, connecting effort and outcomes, time management under pressure.
- 21st Century Learner Skills - setting a study schedule, accessing online resources, finding and asking for help.
- Emotional Readiness - improved confidence, stress management.
- All populations of students develop transferable academic skills:
- Reading - at or above grade level text, across content areas, understanding new words in context, identifying author’s purpose, reading charts and graphs.
- Writing and Language - consuming text quickly and effectively, editing text to improve purpose clarity, and tone, proofreading, and reading charts and graphs.
- Math - responding to two-step problems, writing mathematical expressions from text, excluding extraneous information, reading charts and graphs.
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