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Data: It’s more than test scores

It’s pretty common these days to hear the term “data-driven decision-making” in education and assume it is synonymous with standardized test scores. But we all know that students are more than a set of test scores. And just like there are multiple ways to assess how a student performs, there are many dimensions to education data.  New digital tools are making it possible to build personalized student learning profiles that showcase both academic and non-academic data.

I got a chance to share this idea with many of my fellow education entrepreneurs at the recent White House Education Datapalooza event on October 9, which included special guests U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, U.S. Chief Technology Officer Todd Park, and Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Improvement at the U.S. Department of Education Jim Shelton. It was our honor to present and learn about products, services and applications that have immense potential for advancing education achievement.

Digital tools make it possible for schools to go beyond the traditional gradebook. Yes, well-designed quizzes and demonstrated mastery of the new Common Core State Standards matter, but data doesn’t stop there.

Of the many innovations highlighted at the Education Datapalooza, the most promising were the ones building new data sets to uncover trends and insights in student achievement. Everfi, for example, captures data about student perceptions towards personal finance through game-based assessment. Knewton’s adaptive learning platform catches student misconceptions at a micro level as they progress through media-rich content. Gallup’s StrengthsFinder identifies students’ intrinsic talents, helping students navigate successfully from school to career.

And with Kickboard, teachers are keeping track of other factors that were historically (and sometimes mysteriously) rolled into the overall grade on a report card – class participation, timeliness and completion of work.

Keeping track of students’ character development and learning habits – and taking into account the process and thinking behind completing a task, not just whether they got it “right” – is essential to personalizing learning.

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