Important Sources of Data for Teachers

Monday, April 25, 2016 -- Scott Sterling

The more connected our LMS solutions, assessments, and curricula become, the more data teachers are going to have at their disposal. The crucial step from a teacher’s perspective is paying attention to the right sources of data in order to accomplish your ultimate goal: improved student achievement. Here’s what teachers can look for out of three key data sources.

State and district sources

State and district assessment data are the most granular and sortable variety, yielding endless data points. The challenge is sorting that data in the right way and organizing it into the correct forms to yield actionable insights. That task often falls to administrators. However, teachers can benefit from being provided with their students’ data in a native spreadsheet file and empowered to do some of the analysis on their own. This takes strain off administration and makes it easier for teachers to find the specific data they need at any given moment.

Site-based sources

Never discount the potential bounty in investigating a student’s cumulative folder and clinic card. Some pieces of background simply aren’t revealed to teachers on a regular basis, yet can be helpful when finding ways to reach a certain child. For example, a student may have recently been mainstreamed from a special ed program. If that mainstreaming didn’t happen this year, you wouldn’t know unless you read the student’s history. Some clues on home life, such as how many different addresses the student has had in the past few years, can also be valuable. Take a cup of coffee to the office and spend some time reviewing your students’ files to learn about them on a more personal level.

Classroom sources

The teacher has the best handle on the data derived out of the classroom – namely, grades. But portfolios are also being used as a form of assessment in more classrooms. The problem is that portfolio data doesn’t mesh well with the empirical simplicity of grades; it’s too subjective. That being said, a uniform rubric to assess the learning artifacts held in a portfolio can help correlate grade data with concrete portfolio evidence, putting numbers to the subjective nature of portfolios.

Also, don’t discount your formative assessment data – however informal it may be. Graphic organizers and exit tickets, when collected, can also show evidence of learning and hold insights into particular students’ abilities before formal assessments are available. If you’ve done the rest of your data study thoroughly, you should already know which students to be looking for when a new skill is about to be taught.

With the right skills and tools, the wealth of data available to educators can provide valuable insight students’ progress. Interested in learning more about Edmentum’s solutions to help educators make the most of their student data? Check out our powerful data-dashboard, Edmentum Sensei

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