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End the Perpetual Data Hunt

Jun 09, 2017

Data: the education world’s favorite four-letter word. Student data can drive higher student achievement in your district or leave you with piles of paperwork and a major headache. The difference boils down to your district’s processes for collecting, analyzing, and applying findings in student data. The student data process you use must be reliable and actionable for teachers and administrators.

OnHand Schools has partnered with experienced education experts to provide tips to help make the most of your student data and boost district and student success as part of a holistic, informed cycle.

1. Know what you need.

What do you need to know? Make a list of all the student information you want to collect. In order to have a comprehensive view of student performance, take both academic and behavioral data into account. Consider academic metrics like state assessment scores, local assessments, and report card grades. What about attendance and behavior tracking, like the number of referrals or suspensions? How are you tracking students with IEPs or 504 plans? Do you have an effective progress monitoring system for RTI or MTSS student interventions?

2. Automate your data aggregation.

Take a look at the list of student data you want to track and analyze. That’s a lot of information stored in different places: your student information system, local files, graded stacks of paper, etc. This is where most educators reach for the Excedrin, but data collection doesn’t need to induce a headache or consume all of your time. Find a system that automatically aggregates and displays your data for you in real time.

Automatic data loading is so critical that your project is more than likely to fail if it is up to your staff to manually add the data. Manual data extraction and loading involves a painstaking process for educators, data analysts, and/or administrators to pull separate files, build a new system, and customize data to fit specific views. This involved process leaves much room for error. Your system should be downloading information from all your key measurement sources daily without any user direction. Teachers and administrators are not hunters and gatherers of information they are decision makers in charge of improving student achievement. Make sure they have the right tools.

Automated aggregation is critical for school districts to know exactly how students are performing. Each individual student’s information sprawls across disconnected systems that don’t interact. Attendance records are stored in the Student Information System, while state assessment results live in a school file and other test scores are housed in an Excel file on a teacher’s computer.

Right now, your data points are acting as separate puzzle pieces that you must manually fit together. They aren’t talking to each other or working together to present you with a holistic view of student information. You can see that Alex has a “D” in math class, but can’t easily directly compare this to his high stake assessment scores. If you had a central dashboard to compare these metrics, you could also factor in his low attendance record and deduce that he understands the subject matter, but low scores are directly tied to missing assignments from multiple absences and one recent suspension.

The EdInsight Instructional Management System includes a Data Dashboard that takes the guesswork out of data analysis. It automatically pieces together all parts of the puzzle for you, presenting an up-to-date picture of student performance. The Data Dashboard automatically transfers data from your Student Information System, state assessment files, special education/IEP systems, and third party assessments like DIBELS, AIMS WEB, 4Sight, GRADE, SAT, PSAT, ACT, NWEA, CDT, Study Island, TerraNova, Stanford, DRA, Fountas and Pinnell, ACCESS Wida, and other district local assessments.


3. Use data effectively

You’ve set up a system that automatically pulls in student data from a variety of sources and displays key metrics in a reliable, up-to-date view. Now the data needs to become actionable and inform your instructional cycle.

Data can be your greatest mentor, providing a clear map of student understanding and areas for instructional growth. Leveraging well-organized data can allow you to quickly pinpoint curricular problems and make adjustments, or identify and track students for RTI/MTSS progress monitoring. Data can also highlight instructional and curricular strengths; if the majority of your students are scoring at or above proficiency on a learning standard or unit, data provides solid evidence that you rocked teaching those skills.

Create custom reports to easily analyze key metrics at different levels - by individual students, intervention groups, class periods, or full buildings. The Data Dashboard presents a quick snapshot of key metrics and includes a built-in Data Analyzer that allows users to build custom reports without needing to write complex queries. Build in-depth reports integrated with automated data to quickly identify educational trends and create an action plan.

When data is fully automated and easily understood through visual reporting, it can have a real impact on teaching and learning. Student information is current and readily accessible, and can be analyzed through a variety of filters to target specific metrics and develop a plan for improvement at all levels of district implementation.

Stop playing the student data scavenger hunt and move toward automated data aggregation and analysis. You shouldn’t need to work so hard for data - simplify your process and make it start working for you. 

Category: Content

About The Author

Megan Hankins