Schools need models for linking data, practice

Data-driven decision making must be an ongoing process, a new federal report says.
Data-driven decision making must be an ongoing process, a new federal report says.

States and school systems are making significant progress in building educational data systems and are starting to use these systems to improve student achievement, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Education (ED). But school leaders are still searching for examples of how best to connect student data to instructional practices, the report says.

“Data should be part of a feedback loop used to drive improvement at every level of the education system. This study helps us understand the kinds of data that need to be available for teachers and school leaders if they’re going to use data to improve their practice,” said Carmel Martin, assistant secretary for ED’s Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development.

In “Use of Education Data at the Local Level: From Accountability to Instructional Improvement,” researchers surveyed officials from 529 districts, conducted in-depth site visits to 36 schools in 12 districts that are leading the way in data usage, and analyzed secondary data from a survey of more than 6,000 teachers to get a national view of current data-use practices at the local level.…Read More

Tennessee district improves student performance, reduces dropout rates

The Hamilton County Department of Education (HCDE) oversees nine K-12 school districts in and around Chattanooga, Tenn. Evaluating and improving school performance became a critical task for the districts, owing largely to No Child Left Behind. HCDE officials knew the students in their districts were scoring below state target levels, but it was difficult to understand why—and without that understanding, it was nearly impossible change the situation. HCDE also had a high dropout rate among high school students, and officials wanted to reduce that number.

Administrators chose IBM’s SPSS Modeler and SPSS Statistics software to take a deeper look at student performance by combining data sources and exploring variables beyond what the state reports provided.

Now, HCDE evaluates student performance and keeps students on track earlier in their academic careers by analyzing students’ test scores and combining that information with information on student attendance, behavior, parent information, class schedules, and other data. “Then, we can go through and begin to look at making predictions and identifying students who might be at risk,” says Kirk Kelly, director of testing and accountability for HCDE.…Read More