Districts want to use data to monitor student growth, but many are overwhelmed by it and want to make better sense of this information, according to a report by District Administration, citing a recent survey conducted by the American Productivity and Quality Center.
Though administrators are struggling with all this data, they are increasingly focused on collecting vital measures through methods including student learning benchmarks, District Administration reports. The survey also shows a strong interest in professional development geared towards how to use data to make fact-based decisions.
The survey found that 49% of administrators want to develop a system where data is used to make decisions and 46% want to use formative assessments more effectively. Other administrator priorities include attracting top talent — which 61% of respondents listed — and integrating technology into districtwide curriculum, which 65% said is a top concern for their district.
All the ed tech tools popping up in schools around the country generates an incredible amount of data. This information can help direct the direction of students' learning and districts' decisions, as well as the curriculum and instructional decisions made by educators on a daily basis. However, while this data can tell very detailed stories, that's only the case if people can make sense of it.
Despite the prevalence and increasing presence of ed tech tools, most of them typically go unused in K-12 districts, leaving terabytes of data untouched. This is a waste of valuable financial resources — of which schools and districts don't have an unlimited amount — and demonstrates the disconnect between education and the available data that can be used within the industry.
Some educators are already making good use of the data they collect and the tools they're collecting it with. Catlin Tucker, an English language arts teacher at Windsor High School in Sonoma County, California, uses data-driven ed tech in her classroom. Platforms including Tween Tribune and Newsela assess reading levels through each student's comprehension questions. Based on the results, she can adjust the levels accordingly so the students are reading at a level that challenges them. NoRedInk, on the other hand, detects students' grammatical problems and breaks test results into topics like subject-verb agreement, semicolon use and parallel structure.
Tucker also changed the grading categories in her grade book to reflect specific, standards-based assessments such as argumentative writing and vocabulary development. Now, Tucker's students can see the detail about why they received a certain grade and can better determine how to improve.
Ultimately, part of the solution for educators struggling with this issue is planning. Districts need to develop a strategy to harvest the data generating. Then, that data should be turned into reports that all concerned parties can access. In addition, there must be more professional development opportunities that show educators how to make sense of this data and how to use it to further their goals in the classroom.