The most common practice adopted by low-performing schools seeking to improve student achievement is the use of data to personalize instruction. The US Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES) recently released a report digging deeper into the types of practices low-performing schools receiving federal School Improvement Grants (SIG) use to increase academic improvement compared to those not receiving the grant. This report is a great sign of schools prioritizing the value of data to improve outcomes for students.
The report lays out the three most common practices adopted by the both grant and non-grant receiving schools:
using data to evaluate instructional programs and to inform and differentiate instruction
increasing technology access for teachers
providing ongoing professional development involving teacher collaboration and facilitation by school leaders
Over 96 percent of low-performing schools reported using each of these three practices. Additionally, 99.6 percent specifically used data to identify and implement an instructional program that is research based and vertically aligned from one grade to the next as well as aligned with state academic standards, as well as to inform and personalize instruction to meet the academic needs of individual students. This evidence shows that school leaders understand that data use is one piece of a larger strategy for improving student achievement.
Schools reporting the use of data stated the information helped educators identify:
students that need additional academic support or a different instructional pace
areas students are succeeding in and those that need improvement
effectiveness and needs of enrichment programs and whether resources should be allocated to adjust the student-teacher ratio in these programs
Additional data practices used by low-performing schools in turnaround situations included using data to evaluate the success of professional development and districts or states providing training or technical assistance to support the use of data to improve instruction.
State and district leaders can learn from this and support similar practices. By providing tools to schools, states and districts are promoting effective data use in the classroom that will lead to personalized instruction and increased academic improvement.
IES will be releasing another report in the future evaluating the impact of SIG-funded models on outcomes for low-performing schools. That report will examine whether the types of SIG models, and the practices within those models, are related to improvement in outcomes for low-performing schools and how the models compare to those used by non-SIG-funded schools.
For a better understanding of how data help teachers, parents, and others ensure students are meeting education goals, check out our infographic that follows a teacher and student using data throughout a school year.
This is a guest blog by Dr. David Pennington, president of AASA, the school superintendent’s association, and a district superintendent in Oklahoma. This is Dr. Pennington’s 37th year in public education.
As superintendent of Ponca City Schools in Oklahoma, enrolling 5,300 students at a 68 percent eligibility rate for free and reduced-price lunch, I have firsthand experience in the collection, reporting, and analysis of countless data each school year. More than a decade after NCLB paved a wide road for expanded data collection and transparency, education stakeholders are at a crossroads, faced with answering questions that are both complementary and contradictory: What is collected, why, and how? Who has access to data, when, and for what purposes? How do we ensure data quality and integrity? How do we protect student privacy? And how do we answer all of these questions in a constantly evolving, increasingly digital school and learning environment?
AASA has collaborated with the team at the Data Quality Campaign for over seven years, partnering on white papers and in roundtable discussions, and looking to advance the broader conversation about the role of data in education.
The public reporting of data emerges as a critical point. Done incorrectly or incompletely (e.g., a rushed state report card), data can be misused or misinterpreted. Used properly, that same state (or district) report card becomes an empowering tool that can inform a myriad of other conversations, covering topics from transparency and accountability to student learning and areas to improve in instruction.
In my work at Ponca City, access to high-quality data is critical to decisionmaking. Almost all of the information we use in day-to-day decisions—as well as to inform long-range or mission-focused decisions—is collected and stored locally. Oklahoma’s state education agency is required by the federal government to make certain information about public schools and the students they serve available to the public. This includes information about accountability, student achievement, and teacher quality, data that are not personally identifiable. This is information that becomes public information, and it is of vital importance that the data I (as a superintendent) have access to are high-quality; useful; trustworthy; and easy to find, understand, and communicate. This is a lot to ask of a data set, but it is the right set of questions. It will—and should—affect the data we collect, how we store and access them, and most importantly how we are able to use them to inform decisions that best support student learning.
Leading a school district has helped crystallize the importance of publicly reported data being timely, actionable, and comprehensible; it is one of the most effective ways to give stakeholders (including superintendents like me, along with educators, policymakers, parents, and community members) access to the data, which in turn is the most efficient way to promote transparency and strengthen accountability.
The reality is that the full potential of data remains drastically under-utilized. There is a critical conversation to be had around what we are collecting and why. I can attest to the fact that right now, the bulk of the public reporting going on in Oklahoma—and I’d venture to guess other states—is geared more toward compliance with federal, state, and local law than being customized to most effectively inform district data needs and decisionmaking. This disconnect significantly compromises the ability to fully utilize data and support improvements in teaching and learning.
As we gear up for a new Congress, I welcome the chance to address the importance of appropriate data collection and reporting. I know that I—along with AASA—will be at the table for many conversations, from funding for data systems and the role of accountability to expanded data collection and student privacy. Current K–12 federal policy includes data disaggregation and the ability to shine a light on strengths and weaknesses within a system. This deliberate focus empowers an expanded tool for serious conversations about improving student learning and school performance, and we are optimistic that federal policy—if we properly answer the questions addressed in my opening paragraphs—will remain just as empowering.