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Monday, April 22, 2013

Timeliness is Key for Teachers When Analyzing Performance Data

It's not difficult to find a quote about the importance of good timing. The dangers of procrastination are easily apparent today when the pace of information available to us comes at a break-neck speed via the Internet and social media.

But my favorite quote on timing, which was uttered long ago, surprisingly applies nicely to our world right now, especially when thinking about data and education:

“It gets late early out there.”
- Yogi Berra

In our frequent conversations with school districts and how they use performance data, timing comes up often. One administrator mentioned it’s tough on their schools and teachers when it takes several weeks for the district to receive its NWEA Map results in a usable format. Because of the time lag, teachers often can’t use the last round of results to prepare for the next assessment, which can undermine their purpose of administering predictor assessments to help with student performance.

Otherwise the data can become obsolete because the teachers are not able to analyze it as they prepare their students for the next assessment. Research has shown a huge value of interim assessments is that they are taken several times throughout the year, giving teachers benchmarks to address with the same group of students:

As with annual assessments, interim assessment results generally have the advantage of being comparable across classrooms, but the frequency of their administration means that teachers can use the data to evaluate their own instructional strategies and to track the progress of their current students in a single school year. For instance, data from a district-wide interim
assessment could help illuminate whether the students who were struggling to convert fractions to decimals improved after receiving targeted small group instruction, or whether students’ expository essays  improved after a unit spent reading and analyzing expository writing.

So for districts it’s not a question of if they have the data to help teachers analyze and improve student performance. It’s a matter of getting the data into a format teachers can use and obviously being able to place it in their hands in enough time before it gets too late to use it.

This issue demonstrates where technology will play a huge role, especially the ability to aggregate different types of data quickly. Otherwise, with the Common Core State Standards shift for most states set to occur in 2014-15, as Yogi Berra said: “It will get late early out there” for districts that aren’t thinking about this.

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