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Student data can be used to improve instruction

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 27, 2013 12:56 PM

If K-12 students are to succeed in classrooms that adhere to the Common Core State Standards, educators need to make sure the instruction they provide is effective and of a high quality. Otherwise, pupils may never experience the potential benefits of the CCSS, such as a higher level of college preparedness and the acquisition of essential career skills.

Teachers who are not satisfied with their students' academic performance may want to consider how collecting classroom data could help boost achievement. Anything from test scores to students' responses to surveys could help educators gain a better sense of the effectiveness of their instructional approach. Here are a few ways school officials can go about collecting student data:

Have a system in place
Before educators begin to gather student data for later use, they should have a system in place. After all, the National Association of Elementary School Principals suggests that how student achievement information is collected and implemented plays a role in the data's impact on instruction.

The NAESP recommends establishing a schoolwide data team that creates goals related to the information-collecting process. At the same time, schools can provide ongoing data leadership that helps staff stay on course and understand that collecting and using student information should be continuous.

Analyze assessments
Throughout students' academic careers, they take a large number of tests. As a result, teachers are sitting on a gold mine of useful information that can help them improve their instruction.

According to the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, collecting data from tests does not have to be a complex process. The ASCD recommends teachers count how many students missed each item on the assessment they are looking at. Something else they can do is calculate the number of students who failed to meet a specific criterion. From there, educators can decide which subjects need more attention.

Classroom observations
If teachers are not seeing the types of results they desire, the problem could arise from their approach to instruction. Having fellow educators sit in on a few classes could identify specific issues that are standing between students and a higher level of achievement. It is also a good way to observe and halt troublesome behavior exhibited by certain students by bringing it to teachers' attention.

Survey students
Perhaps one of the best ways for educators to determine how effective their lessons are is to ask students for their opinions. This type of method for collecting student data may work better with older pupils, such as those in high school, who can go into more detail than younger individuals.

Recently, a total of 400 high school students in Oregon were surveyed about their thoughts on the state's education system. The survey, which was conducted by the Chalkboard Project and DHM Research, featured questions related to students' feelings regarding the quality of their teachers and academic standards, among other subjects.

Based on the results of the survey, 74 percent of students think a number of pupils are slipping through the cracks in Oregon's public school system, while 87 percent of respondents believe that educators' impact on student academic growth should be reflected in teacher hiring, tenure and salary decisions.

"The public perception is that the opinions of students and adults widely differ," said Adam Davis, co-founder and principal of DHM Research. "But, our latest polls show that this is not the case. Individuals ranging from students to teachers to parents see the same gaps in Oregon's education system and support the work that will provide a better education for all students."