Schools give many tests throughout the year to identify students’ skills and gaps in their learning, including universal screening, diagnostic, formative, interim, and summative assessments. These tests generate a huge amount of data meant to guide instruction—but all of this information can be overwhelming if teachers don’t have an easy way to process it.
There is such a thing as having too much data. If teachers have to sort through an abundance of data to figure out what their students need, and if they don’t know which data points they should focus on to achieve the greatest impact on learning, then they won’t use data to inform their instruction—and the money invested in data analysis and reporting tools will have been largely wasted.
That used to be our experience in California’s Buena Park School District, which serves nearly 5,000 students in grades K-8. We had a great data tool, but teachers weren’t using it. After making a few simple changes, however, we saw our teachers’ use of data begin to skyrocket.
Here are three key takeaways from our experience.
1. Collect student data in one simple place.
Our district uses Illuminate Data and Assessment (DnA) to help teachers make better decisions that lead to student achievement gains. With this software, we’re able to collect student data from many different sources and assessments and present it through a single dashboard. Teachers don’t have to go hunting for information in separate software systems. Everything they need to inform their instruction is in one place, saving valuable time.
2. Make the information easy to read and understand.
Our data system allows users to view more than 20 standard reports, and we can create custom reports as well. Each report is intended to drive conversation—not just present information. For instance, the reports contain simple graphs and charts as well as a brief written summary that explains what the report shows and the questions it answers. Teachers aren’t data scientists, and we’ve found that our teachers appreciate having these concise summaries to help them digest the information.