Data, data, data. Through our work with Michigan K-12 schools and districts, we found schools who successfully raised achievement and closed achievement gaps focused on multiple forms of data. One MSU K-12 Outreach staff member observed: “The use of data for instructional improvement is often a rallying point for both administrators and teachers.” When leaders and staff engage in their own the data, they are able to take ownership of the story the data told. “When we put good data in front of teachers and walk them through the process of disaggregating the data, they can be key in identifying areas of concern. We have to slow down and have rich dialogues about the data and the process, as well as to monitor implementation,” And when staff members “put faces on the data,” they are able to make the leap to student-centered learning
Using data requires time, something that is in short supply for most schools. The most successful schools find creative ways to give staff the necessary time because they recognized that--as one MSU K-12 Outreach specialist noted--“the key to the using data to increase students’ academic performance lies in both individual and collaborative effort of staff members to understand, analyze and use pertinent information in designing energetic, meaningful, and effective lessons.”
School improvement variables are many and diverse and even more so when assessing and addressing achievement gaps across and within subgroups. Data-driven school improvement remains a priority and digging into relevant data can be daunting. While data analysis is typically focused at the school and classroom level, it can be useful to take a look at aggregate data at the ISD level. This level of data review can assist in tackling underlying or less obvious issues that impact achievement gaps for students with IEPs. In addition, identification of such issues can inform procedural and managerial improvements.
When we talk about race, race matters; when we don’t talk about race, race matters. This is one of several arguments that educational researcher Mica Pollock makes in her book, Colormute, to underscore many educators’ inability to talk explicitly about race in meaningful ways in schools. Her statement highlights our need to acknowledge and respond to the ways in which race isdiscussed in schools and the silence around race in learning spaces – both of which can have adverse effects on the schooling experiences and life outcomes of the young people we serve. I believe data dialogues can provide opportunities for school leaders and staff to more accurately frame data discussions and address equity issues in schooling by culturally situating these conversations. You might ask, “What does this mean?”
This is the time of year when the Bureau of Assessment & Accountability (Michigan Department of Education) sends the Student Analysis Extract Files (S.A.F.E.) data to every district. These data reports provide opportunity to do some deep digging into subgroup performance on the state assessments.
Educators are exposed to a wide range of rich data and need to be able to discern their usefulness. When you think about data, what usually comes to mind are numbers, graphs, percentages, etc., presented with little context, and at times, with even less clarity. Some of the data may appear to be irrelevant or redundant to teachers or administrators; this can make it difficult for them to make meaning of the data and use it to inform their teaching or administrative practices.
To MOVE your NUMBERS, you first need to KNOW your NUMBERS
This past summer I had opportunities to talk to a number of school district leaders. One of the inquiries I made was “what are your Individualized Education Program (IEP) demographics?” While some were able to cite the percent of students served through special education programs and services in their districts or buildings, fewer were able to retrieve more descriptive data and trends that should be part of every data dialogue when addressing the achievement gaps. This is important because your NUMBERS tell a story.