Start the year strong by leveraging existing and new data metrics to identify performance gaps and increase performance

How districts can use data now to plan for the fall

Start the year strong by leveraging existing and new metrics to identify performance gaps and increase performance

As schools rushed to move face-to-face classes online, the unique challenges faced by students attempting to learn remotely came to the surface. The enormous loss of instructional time caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has the potential to widen performance gaps in public education.

The early warning indicators that districts typically use as predictors of performance and engagement—such as attendance, suspensions, and summative assessment scores—are not data points districts are currently tracking. Knowing that, how should you be thinking about student performance? What new or additional data points are critical for understanding how students are engaging remotely?

Related content: 5 truths for building a successful data culture

There’s still relevance in your historic data

While you may not have data from this spring, you likely have historic data from past benchmark assessments to see student performance trends in previous screening windows. You can start to get a sense of where students were and where they should be at this time. This historic data can provide great insights into populations of students that typically have performed below district benchmarks so that you can make critical decisions on how to support them once schools reopen.

New data metrics to consider

Another interesting metric to consider is Distance Learning Engagement. Keeping track of which students have come to pick-up paper packets, which have engaged with online learning tools, and which students teachers been able to consistently reach or those who they’ve struggled to maintain contact with—can all provide context. Distance Learning Engagement may also be a predictive indicator for teachers as they’re preparing for formal instruction again this fall.

In addition, you have access to formative and normed assessments. While there are considerations to keep in mind when thinking about testing at home, know that there are ways to still get a pulse on student learning gains and gaps. A number of assessment vendors are starting to offer at-home assessment options, like Renaissance’s Star Assessments.

Ensure you’re equitably serving all students

Once you’ve considered which new metrics to add, it’s essential to disaggregate by key groups such as English Learner status, SPED status, gender, ethnicity, and grade level to ensure students are receiving equitable support and engaging with instruction while at home.

We encourage that you also consider the level of technology and internet access at home in understanding the full picture of performance and a student’s ability to engage in distance learning. Storing this data in your student information system will help as you make plans for the different support you will need to provide students if distance learning resumes again this fall.

Districts have leveraged Schoolzilla for these reasons, and when school districts open in the fall, it can help them prioritize how they think about how they support the unique needs of all students, ensuring they are receiving an adequate amount of support, touchpoints, resources, and more.

Actionable ideas for fall

Over the past few months, many people in education have been focused on the immediate task at hand: teaching and supporting students remotely. Upon their return, it is critical that students receive as much time as they can get in the classroom, and that their instructional time is focused. Teachers can provide differentiated instruction while offering support to every learner. The early data is going to be essential for identifying where students need direct support. Teachers need to focus on those specific areas where students are lacking, and they need the discretion to do so from their school districts.

The upcoming school year might look a little different than years past, but there is an urgency to catch students up, and the need to see student growth is more pressing than ever before. Having a data analytics or progress-monitoring tool that is aligned to your strategic plan will help district and school leaders implement best practices and intervene with the students that need their support most.


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