How do you get teachers to use data? One district zeroed in on what’s important
Every day, educators amass a tremendous amount of academic data. Many of that data ultimately gets entered into online systems and run through analysis software and teacher dashboards. But that data is only valuable if it can be easily accessed and analyzed, and acted upon in a timely manner. And only if the teacher finds it worthwhile enough to complete that process.
In the past, my district used a scanning system to scan paper test forms and quickly make the data available to teachers for their review. The problem was that seven years after we launched the system, I was still teaching our teachers how to use it. Because it wasn’t user friendly, it wasn’t used very extensively, which meant that data was going to waste.
In 2013, we set out to find a system that would be easier to use, more visual, and better at organizing data in a concise way, and that summer we began using a new assessment and data system (we picked Performance Matters). To introduce its capabilities, we held district-wide trainings for our teachers. A few months later, however, we realized we now faced a challenge at the opposite end of the spectrum. With our previous system, our teachers couldn’t get enough data. With our new system, they had access to more data than they knew what to do with.
To help teachers focus on the data most important to them, we launched another round of trainings. To make things as easy as possible, we decided to concentrate on two dashboards we believe are vital to teachers’ daily practice in the classroom and to school improvement planning.
Our Item Analysis dashboard provides item-level detail showing the percentage and number of students who chose each answer (multiple choice items) or earned each score (other item types) on a given assessment. This is particularly helpful when looking for students’ misconceptions. If, for example, a teacher sees that 60 percent of students got item No. 1 wrong and that all of these students chose the same answer, they know exactly what they need to re-teach. It can also help determine when an answer choice needs to be updated or replaced.
The Item Analysis dashboard also shows the breakdown of the standards on the assessment and how students scored overall on each standard. This helps teachers easily identify which standards students are struggling with, so they can target their instruction accordingly.
In addition, the Item Analysis dashboard illustrates each student’s performance on the standards. Because teachers can instantly see which students are non-proficient, proficient or advanced on each standard, they can easily differentiate their instruction and provide remediation to those students who need it. Teachers say this is a huge time-saver, since they can simply click on a standard and have the re-teaching group immediately displayed for them.
Student Item Analysis
Our Student Item Analysis dashboard gives an overall percentage score for each student as well as how many points the student earned on the test. Teachers can then use these scores in their gradebooks.
This dashboard also shows how each student responded to each question and whether the answer was right or wrong. Teachers can use this data to review the test with students if needed.
Finally, the Student Item Analysis dashboard shows what the most common incorrect answer was and the percentage of students who chose it. This helps teachers address common misconceptions.
Both the Item Analysis and Student Item Analysis dashboards provide valuable data for collaborative planning sessions at each school. During these sessions, school leadership teams and teachers can view their students’ data so they can share best practices, and offer or ask for assistance. Because the data is easy to access and understand, they now spend less time organizing data and more time doing what needs to be done to improve student outcomes.
We’ve also provided trainings for our principals, assistant principals, and school leadership teams on how to use data for school improvement planning. The Item Analysis dashboard is especially helpful here. The item-level detail and standards breakdown give school leaders the data they need create standards-specific goals, so they can be more much focused in their school improvement plans.
Thanks to the wide use of these two dashboards, our teachers and school leaders now spend far less time on data retrieval and significantly more time on data analysis and decision making. The key is to keep it simple. Give teachers the tools and data they need to be successful, and give them opportunities to collaborate and use that data to improve their practice. Then, after teachers become comfortable with these key dashboards, offer more advanced training to show them how to use other dashboards to dive deeper into the data.
Michelle Hall is an administrator in the Accountability Office, Instructional Data Division for Anne Arundel County Public Schools in Maryland.