With a wealth of data now available to districts, schools, and classrooms, a common question we hear is- What data should our school's data team look at? If we consider the purpose of a data team as informing classroom instruction and improving student performance, then the information data teams review should fit within this context.
- Primarily, data teams should focus on formative assessments which provide real-time, mid-year or mid-unit input on student learning. These may be in the form of exit tickets, quizzes or interim assessments, or performance and writing tasks with a rubric. This type of data is most valuable to data teams as it provides a midway check-in on student progress with time to modify instruction to support student mastery.
- After formative assessment, data teams should review summative assessment. State tests, end of unit assessments, and other standardized summative assessments provide a fairly reliable measure of student mastery of content standards. Summative assessment provides a view of how well students learned content within a given unit or academic course. Summative assessments also provide comparative data, as they can be used to compare the performance of cohorts of students year-to-year, and in some cases, measure student growth. Summative assessments are also helpful in identifying bigger picture trends in student learning, such as proficiency gaps between subgroups, or gaps in student learning over time.
- However, as data teams dive into formative and summative assessments, additional questions may arise that can not be answered from student assessment data or student work. Here, data teams should look to the additional data available to them, particularly when conducting a deeper analysis of longitudinal trends. This data may include demographic and enrollment information, school climate or student surveys, or teacher preparation or evaluation data.
Steve Ventura from Advanced Collaborative Solutions reminds us that, "data teams are not about student test scores. Data teams are about cause and effect." In this vein the work of data teams is not a focus on analyzing data, but about using the data to impact a positive change in student learning and success through informed classroom instruction.