From the Blog

Data, Data Everywhere: Tools and Resources for Educators

by Jean Haeger 

Educating our youth through a pandemic is causing us to rethink almost everything we do in schools. How do we know what’s working? We know that for the majority of our students, families, and staff, in-person learning is the preferred modality, but not for everyone. How might we determine what’s actually working better now than ever before? What are we learning through our best attempts at reaching students through remote and hybrid instructional models?

Even districts with robust data-informed practices are having to rethink what data are most relevant to collect and what structures best support analysis. Schools that have relied on state assessments to reflect on students’ growth and program effectiveness are having to look internally to start those conversations. Through our work supporting schools over the years, and brought to the fore through this pandemic, the Great Schools Partnership finds several data collection structures and practices are proving themselves to be particularly useful. 

Perceptual Data: How Is Everybody Doing?

Perceptual data such as surveys, interviews, or focus groups can help a school understand how various stakeholders—students, families, staff, community members, etc.—perceive their schools. This kind of feedback often provides insight that can inform immediate next steps to reinforce what may be working well, or can inform adjustments to improve stakeholder experiences. 

In Spring 2020, as it became clear that remote learning was going to be with us for a while, many schools conducted surveys about students’ learning experiences, families’ well-being, and staff needs. They used the responses to adjust instruction or prioritize resources, and to plan for reopening in the fall. Here are a few tools and resources that can help your school community gather perceptual data:

  • Student feedback surveys: At the most immediate level, teachers can learn about students’ perceptions in their own classes, whether in person, hybrid, or remote, using tools such as our student feedback survey. Based on the Measures of Effective Teaching, this survey correlates strongly with academic performance. Not surprisingly, students who have positive perceptions of their learning experiences do better in their classes. The items in this survey narrow the focus on a few areas that, if teachers address them well, could have the greatest impact on student learning. 
  • Distance learning surveys: To get a more broad view of how various stakeholders are experiencing our current educational environment, it’s important to compare the perceptions of students with those of their families and teachers. Panorama Education offers a variety of freely downloadable instruments that have been vetted and aligned across groups in a way that responses can easily be compared. How would students describe their engagement? What are their families seeing? And their teachers?
  • Equity pulse check: When examining the patterns revealed in the results from either of the two types of surveys above, deeper systemic issues may come to light. The Great Schools Partnership has developed a process through which representatives from across the school community can engage in honest dialogue based on our indicators of educational equity.  

Curriculum Embedded Assessments: What Are Students Learning?

Curriculum embedded assessments aligned with clear and shared learning outcomes allow teachers and students to monitor academic progress on a just-in-time basis. When requirements for most state assessments were waived last year, schools and districts that had developed strong proficiency-based learning systems were not only able to assess students’ academic performance more easily and provide actionable feedback to students, but they were also able to determine more quickly which standards were most critical to focus on at a time of such great disruption. Students who have access to learning standards and scoring criteria have been able to direct their learning independently more easily. A number of resources that can help schools develop or refine their learning systems can be found here: proficiency-based learning. 

Professional Learning Groups: How Do We Interpret and Act on the Data We Collect?

Leadership teams and professional learning groups (PLGs) are structures that many schools use to develop, implement, and reflect on school improvement plans. When such teams develop regular habits for analyzing data and determining next steps, the collection of both perceptual and academic performance data can lead to action that increases educational equity.

The following tools and resources can help schools develop high-functioning, data-informed teams:

  • Professional learning groups (PLGs): This toolkit can help a school develop or refine their PLG structures. Here you can also find information about our discovery sessions related to PLGs, which can help staff from your school strengthen their facilitation and data analysis skills and processes. These sessions are equally beneficial to teams of teachers, administrators, or mixed stakeholder groups.
  • Using data to inform instruction: This tool can help guide your team through the process of collecting, analyzing, and acting on school-based data. 

Common Data Project – Annual Report

Done with this blog? Now it’s time to dive into the New England Secondary School Consortium’s Common Data Project Annual Report, which provides transparent, comparable data about high school and college outcomes from across the New England states. 

Check out the latest report by clicking the button below: