The Flashlight Blog

The Flashlight blog is an online conversation featuring illuminating perspectives on education data use.

Bernice Butler posted on October 7, 2015. 0 Comments

Data Works for Students in Tacoma

Category: Local Data Use

Tacoma Public Schools in Washington State was facing an unacceptable graduation rate of 55 percent. Every high school within its borders had been declared a dropout factory, and the community felt voiceless.  In 2012 Superintendent Carla Santorno and her team started a plan of action that would change the face of public education in the district.

When developing a culture of data use in a school district, the support of stakeholders is crucial. Parents and the community must see the effort as a friendly tool to support ongoing improvement. Superintendent Santorno and her team created a “safe space” for community members to dig into less-than-perfect performance data at open school board meetings. The district worked with the community to develop a common language and definitions. Working hand-in-hand with school leaders and community partners, Santorno and her team then re-evaluated the existing plan for the district and identified data-driven goals for student academic success, safety, early learning, and community partnerships.

Fostering a safe space for data use within schools is also crucial to creating a supportive culture. “There are two things that inhibit people from using data. Number one is that they’re scared of it. Number two is once they understand what it says, they don’t know what to do with it,” Santorno said. Data literacy training and professional development were vital to ensuring teachers overcame those concerns. Principals were trained as data leaders to ensure information was used to inform conversations and inspire action. Tacoma also created time and space for collaboration between teachers across grade levels to examine data.

The district was able to set and work toward their goals because it had the information it needed to measure progress. Since then Tacoma Public Schools has seen increases in student achievement, partnerships, and community support. The community has a voice again, and students are on track for success. Graduation rates have climbed for four consecutive years and are up 23 percent since 2010. Additionally, participation in college-level courses has increased more than 20 percent in two years, and more than 90 percent of 11th and 12th graders take the PSAT and SAT college entrance exams.

“The more we can look at data that’s not just a test score that also tell a story that we’re building success, I think that will help build a better system,” Santorno said.

Find out more about great data use in service of student learning in Data Works for Students.


Bernice Butler posted on October 6, 2015. 0 Comments

Data Works for Students in Goochland County

Category: Local Data Use

The leaders of Virginia’s Goochland County Public Schools have developed a culture founded in balanced, complete data, ensuring that every student’s learning is a priority. They created a vision for their schools, in collaboration with teachers, administrators, and families, that addresses the needs of the school community.

The district prioritizes individual growth over traditional achievement scores, allowing students to take ownership of the progress they make and ensuring that parents have a clear roadmap for their child’s growth. Instead of relying on a single standardized test score, Goochland uses multiple assessments and continuous reflection so that teachers are better equipped to individualize instruction for students.

In developing their strategic plan, Goochland’s leaders identified three measures to determine if they were fostering a learning environment where students feel safe to learn, teachers are supported, and families are engaged. These three measures—student growth, social-emotional indicators, and school climate—laid the foundation for the balanced assessment project for measuring student progress and achievement.

Goochland’s balanced approach to assessment and data analytics means that learning can become more individualized for students. In an effort to engage teachers as leaders in the system, leaders took a core group of teachers through a six-month review of every assessment in the state and let them pick the assessment they felt truly gauged student growth. Today in Goochland teachers are better equipped to individualize instruction for students, driving their continued success with instruction resulting in high levels of academic success for students.

Goochland is one of 22 school divisions in Virginia with 100 percent of schools reaching full state accreditation. The use of new tools for warehousing, viewing, and sharing a balanced picture of student progress is central to helping it outpace national norms with student growth. Tracking climate and engagement data among students and families helps leaders understand student needs and ensure high levels of community involvement with their district’s work.

Every great roadmap to student data success involves professional development and data literacy training for school leaders and teachers. In this area Goochland excelled. First, they rolled out their data-driven initiative slowly, to give teachers an opportunity to reflect, respond, and ask questions. They specifically emphasized that data would be used as a “flashlight and not a hammer” to help instructors increase student growth. In addition, they are piloting a teacher leadership model, which identifies division-wide teacher leaders to participate in a professional learning community to discuss data analysis and have teacher-to-teacher conversations. According to Sean Campbell, Goochland’s technical services specialist, teachers “became empowered with their own data and became very interested in data, and not just state tests.”

Find out more about great data use in service of student learning in Data Works for Students.

Data-in-Action-Goochland blog

Team Blogs

Aimee Guidera
Brennan Parton
Chris Kingsley
Dakarai Aarons
Danielle Evennou
Elizabeth Dabney
Evan Omerso
Jon-Michael Basile
Kathy Lally
Katie Ida
Paige Kowalski
Rachel Anderson
Rebecca Shah
Sara McClafferty
Taryn Hochleitner
Yasmin Fallahkhair


Featured Videos

See more videos