The Educator as Analyst Part I: What’s data got to do with it?

Wednesday, August 14, 2013 -- Ketsia Hamilton

Ketsia Hamiliton, Edmentum’s National Assessment Consultant, introduces her new series, “The Educator as Analyst.” 

In June I journeyed to California to attend the Gordon Commission Symposium on the Future of Assessment in Education held on the campus of UCLA

En route I read a special report by CNBC on the Sexiest Job of the 21st Century.  Their conclusion:  Data Analyst, much to my surprise.  As I read the article I couldn’t help but draw a parallel between a teacher’s “new” hat in the 21st century as data analyst in the classroom and the hottest job on the market.  The article described the need for data scientists “who know how to manage the tsunami of information, spot patterns within it, and draw conclusions and insights.”

 It caused me to reflect on my own experiences as a former classroom teacher. I recall department meetings strictly dedicated to focusing on student evaluation with “mountains” of data.  The mountain resulted from a very detailed process beginning with the creation of assessment items for a department exam, administering the test on the assigned day, waiting anxiously for scanned results, reviewing data to create item analysis spreadsheets, analyzing and categorizing the results, adjusting scores to reflect the curve, and then creating plans to reteach performers below the set standard – needless to say the cycle was exhausting!  However, I learned the value of creating an assessment system within my classroom that focused on standards and performance outcomes centering on the heart of what I needed to know – how well my instruction was informing the learning process.  The practice made me more keenly aware of why, and in some cases how, to adjust my teaching in order to maximize the learning experience for all students thereby improving their results.

As a participant in the symposium, I was exposed to the culmination of a two-year study that began in 2011. The mission of the study was to evaluate the best of educational assessment policy, practice, and technology to generate recommendations of what will be needed to reform the design and application of assessments to be more impactful for the 21st century.  The panelists challenged me to appreciate the breadth of the assessment conversation as this is a major part of the paradigm shift taking place in understanding the purpose of assessment as a tool FOR learning and a key component to reforming the American education system.

In this series, we will examine the work of the Gordon Commission as a foundation for educators use of formative assessments, benchmark tests, and data evaluation.  These critical elements define how classrooms and school systems transform into learning communities conducive to raising achievement and breaking cycles of failure.  In the words of Daniel Keys Moran, “You can have data without information, but you cannot have information without data.”  I think CNBC may be on to something.