When a teacher, administrator, CEO, IT person or otherwise suggests the need for better data collection, those of us who aren’t in the above categories often replay old commercial jingles in our heads.
Data, however, is as much a part of No Child Left Behind and the future of public education as high-stakes tests and labeling schools.
Digital Directions, a new publication of Education Week, reports: For five years, NCLB No Child Left Behind Act has increased demands on schools to put in place new and better systems to collect and analyze data.
Sounds simple enough, but it’s not. Collecting data in a useful way seldom is simple.
“Now that Congress is working to renew the law, educators’ hunger for data probably will grow, as will the demand for technology leaders to deliver the information to teachers, administrators, and policymakers in ways that they can use it to improve student achievement. Supporters of the law are floating ideas that would evaluate teachers on the test scores of their students, for example. Members of Congress also are proposing to help schools create a series of tests that track students’ learning in preparation for end-of-year assessments,” Digital Directions reported.
The magazine predicts principals and teachers will want numbers that give them clues about how to meet NCLB’s goal of ensuring all students meeting “proficient” standards in reading and math by 2013-14.
“I don’t think this is going to go away, with or without No Child Left Behind,” Julie A. Marsh, a policy researcher at the RAND Corp., a Santa Monica, Calif.-based think tank, said of the appetite for better data. “I think it’s here to stay.”
This is important for Oklahoma City Public Schools because new Superintendent John Q. Porter has made technology improvement — and with it, better data collection — a hallmark of his education career. We can expect to see this continue during his tenure here.
An Aspen Institute panel has laid out a plan that would evaluate teachers based on their students’ scores on state tests. States would rate teachers according to students’ progress during an academic year.
Teachers who ranked below the 25th percentile would receive intensive professional development. Those who continued to be in the bottom quartile would be unable to teach in schools that receive Title I funds.
“While the Aspen plan is just one proposal, it is a sign that policy experts are looking to data analysis to answer a pressing question: How do schools identify effective and ineffective teachers?” the magazine reported.
It continued, “To meet the demand for such information, school districts will have to overhaul their instructional materials and their data systems to ensure that they are useful to teachers, helping them track students’ academic progress and identify the interventions necessary to keep them on course.”
Technology officers probably won’t need to start all over, the magazine predicted.
Information districts already collect could be combined and made more usable.
I can say firsthand that knowing exactly what information a school district collects is a challenge. I’m sure it’s equally so for a henpecked administrator.
“Because existing data systems were designed to meet specific purposes, such as reporting attendance rates to state officials or registering students for high school courses, they can’t create comprehensive reports on specific students or of groups of them,” the magazine reported. “In a data-driven world, however, those systems need to be able to deliver numbers that teachers can use in real time.”
Right now, the magazine reported, many teachers don’t see much value in the student scores they receive from state tests, according to a recent online survey by the Teachers Network, a New York City-based coalition of districts and nonprofits that provides professional development for teachers. Although the survey participants were self-selected, the 5,600 respondents suggest that teachers aren’t getting much help from current test results.
“We should be looking at multiple assessments,” says Ellen Meyers, a vice president of the Teachers Network.
I’m by no means an expert, but one theme I see running through successful charter schools, and even some traditional public schools, is frequent benchmark testing. Teachers and administrators know at any time exactly where their students are.