This page provides educators actionable steps for the analysis and application of student data, with a focus on data derived from student assessment. From spreadsheets to data-driven decision making, educators use student assessment results to transform school-wide processes, day-to-day instruction, and – ultimately – student learning.
Navigating the trove of student data is cumbersome and overwhelming at times. Student assessment offers plenty of fruitful information to schools, parents, and students about student performance and achievement, but the data can be difficult to pinpoint or comprehend.
People spend years in school learning to parse through, organize, visualize, and draw meaningful conclusions from data. It’s complicated! Yet, schools must interpret student data and transform it into meaningful curricular and instructional initiatives in a limited amount of time and with a finite amount of resources, which is a tall order.
Student assessment provides a quantitative measure of student performance and a wealth of information that becomes a road map for leading school improvement.
Why Student Data? Schools and districts often have limited resources, whether it be time, money, personnel, etc., and therefore must utilize resources effectively. Student data derived from student assessment offers a fuller picture of what is happening across schools and districts and empowers us to foster a school environment dedicated to student achievement.
Student data plays an integral role in finding those opportunities for meaningful change, while also making the process manageable by providing focus. To effectively use student data in this way, schools need to have a process in place for analyzing the data.
Schools leaders use student data to make data-informed decisions at all levels of the school and measure the efficacy of initiatives.
By using data to improve schools, school leaders learn where to invest in teacher professional development and support for instruction, such as creating common assessments. School leaders can also monitor performance by subgroups to ensure equity with the school or district and meet requirements of ESSA.
In the classroom, teachers use assessment data as an opportunity for reflection with outgoing students, recognizing what strategies worked and what didn’t, and as a tool to gauge the strengths and areas for growth within the incoming class. Using a curriculum cycle, teachers make adjustments to curriculum based on student assessment results to better support students whether through standards alignment, development of knowledge or skills, and more.
With data, teachers apply data driven instruction to ensure they intentionally align to standards and ensure students have meaningful practice with student assessment accommodations they may encounter in larger summative assessments. Teachers also use data for decision-making all the way to day-to-day lesson planning.
By having a well-rounded and aligned curriculum influenced in part by reflecting on student assessment data, data-driven instruction becomes feasible throughout the academic year.
Assessments are designed for specific purposes. Summative assessment and standardized test scores offer differing interpretations of student learning, and the scoring methodologies are not always comparable, making the nature of assessment data different from test to test.
It’s important to understand the characteristics of assessments to best determine how to use them. Essentially, by not understanding how to think critically about the assessments, the choices you make using the assessment data may not be as effective (aka assessment literacy).
For example, asking a question about student growth with assessment data designed to measure proficiency, will lead to an incorrect understanding and skewed interpretation of the data.
When looking at assessment data, do you know what each assessment measures and how they score your students? Is the assessment measuring growth or performance; what about proficiency? Does the assessment predict success in the next grade level or the ability to pass an end of year exam? Are scores derived from references – norms or criteria?
Knowing this information – and more – is paramount because it allows schools to use student data intentionally and as it was designed, which ultimately drives more-informed and better decision-making. It also saves time in the long run by giving clear direction for each set of student assessment data you may encounter.
While there are a plethora of ways to categorize assessments, this page focuses on type, score, and reference.
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