Learning Your School’s Data Tools

Learning Your School’s Data Tools

This post is written by Tamica Lewis. Tamica is an formative online assessment administrator for student assessment from the Houston Independent School District.

Data-driven instruction is so trendy it may seem like the education equivalent of the selfie stick. But it is a legitimate way to increase student performance while also looking like a rock star. Here are three reasons it’s worth investing the time to learn your school’s data management platform. A data management platform is any kind of online system that captures instructional data.

Why Do I Need a Data Management Platform Anyway?

Well-meaning administrators, in their effort to promote a data-driven culture, may require teachers to collect student data and place it a folder or a “data-binder.” Data-binders are a fine way to maintain data records and a great starting place for lesson planning. But if data-binders aren’t used regularly, and are simply kept for appraisal purposes, they can end up as a place where useful information about student performance goes to die.

Taking the concept of a data-binder online into a data management platform makes it more likely that you will actually look at the reports and use the data. No longer will the information need to be carried around. No longer can be it forgotten at school.

As you learn about your school’s data management platform, don’t forget that your colleagues are great resources. Your colleagues know the history behind your school’s ability to capture student performance data, and your school’s requirements for incorporating student data into planning. They can tell you what to expect in terms of software usability (e.g., regular downtimes, known issues, and shortcuts). Putting your time and effort into data is one investment that will have long-lasting returns throughout your career.

Improved Teaching Skills

The philosophical underpinning of differentiated instruction is simply that educators should strive to provide what each child needs and recognize needs are different for every child. How do you document each student’s needs? How do you keep track of your intervention or enrichment efforts? How do you determine which techniques were effective? Data helps illuminate the answers to those questions. Anecdotal evidence is traditional in schools, but anecdotal data is susceptible to bias, omission, and haste.

Performance data, whether it is student work, student records, or data from assessments, are objective data. Be the kind of teacher who can supplement anecdotes with data when describing student performance, and use data as one key piece to inform your professional judgment. Be the kind of teacher who is prepared to talk with students, parents, and colleagues about performance in an objective way.

Student-Driven Instruction

Every school has a set of standards and expectations to help keep everyone on track to support student learning. For teachers, learning standards without learning how they are assessed—and how to use that information—is only going half the distance.

Making good use of data means more than just knowing how to log into the system. The information a platform provides will allow you to spend time analyzing and using data to help students meet personalized goals. Reports are how student data gets packaged and presented to you in a useful way. They are the difference between looking at an overwhelming pile of graded paper on your desk and looking at a simple screen showing exactly how students are progressing toward different concepts and standards.

Putting your time and efforts into data is one investment that will have long-lasting returns throughout your career.

Students in a classroom. The teacher is pointing out what needs to be done in their notebooks.

Students in a classroom. The teacher is pointing out what needs to be done in their notebooks.