Know Your Data!
As school leader, and educator, it pays to know your data. It is easy to confuse data with information, though. Certainly information can help make decisions, but it is all the combined data, of different types, that should drive district decision-making.
Inviting all higher-level district stakeholders together to discover, where they get their data, and asking them to share it can do a good exercise. You could discover that there is a lot more district data collection than you thought, and you may find that the stakeholders rely on it for decisions. But the obvious question will be to ask if all that data really matters? Furthermore, can it be pared back to the data essential for making district-wide—best decisions? Gathering data that will not be used places it in the realm of just gathering information. There’s plenty of information in education, so what we really need in education is good data.
Types of Data
Summative assessments are considered high stakes, and that means they are considered to have high value. These can include midterm and final exams, major projects, presentations, papers, grades, standardized tests and more. While summative assessments can drive decisions about students, it should not be used exclusively—too many things can be missed. It is possible that the design of summative assessments don’t allow educators to get at what students really know—and have really learned. Summative assessments shouldn’t be used in isolation in the decision-making process.
Formative assessments are when teacher and student feedback is captured during lessons and learning to discover student achievement and instructional outcomes. This type of data drives how lessons proceed, discovers what students know, and helps educators to find out what truly matters. Formative assessment looks at student achievement based on instruction and instructional outcomes. The key is that formative assessments can and should happen on a daily basis and in-the moment—during every lesson.
Teaching a student and giving an assessment at the end of a unit is not formative. Formative assessments are done daily to address individual student instruction and the necessary modifications to that instruction for every student. Technology solutions have made these formative assessments easier to do and document, today. One such solution that can help is ClassFlow from Promethean. It’s easy user interface can help educators know daily what students know, and discover what they don’t know—on the fly—and in the heat of the lesson. Formative assessment data drives educator understanding of what students need, and how to improve teaching best practices.
Bringing All the Data Together
If summative and formative assessments are used together, the picture of a student’s learning becomes much clearer. This approach is certainly makes for a better, and more informed decision. There are, of course, other sources of data, including student attendance, disciplinary documentation, evaluation assessments, observations, and even community and parent survey data. None of those should be considered in isolation. Data, when looked at in its entirety, prevents wild assumptions from occurring. In this way, data helps to make a better, informed education decision.
Data-Driven Conversations and Decision Making
Listen to education leader and author, Steven Anderson, share his insights on creating data-driven learning environments: