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February 1, 2003
Vol. 60
No. 5

Web Wonders / Using Data to Improve Student Achievement

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Today's educators have a public mandate to base their instructional decisions on comprehensive, accurate data. Although the world of data-based decision making can be daunting, the Web offers a wealth of resources to help.

Overviews and Collections of Resources

You can find links to a broad collection of online resources related to data-driven decision making on the library page of the National Staff Development Council's Web site (go to, then click on Library). Links include overviews and definitions, sources of data, tools and strategies for using data, research reports and articles, and models of data use for improvement.
Visit North Central Regional Education Laboratory's Web site to access The Toolbelt: A Collection of Data-Driven Decision-Making Tools for Educators ( Here you'll find many resources, including a tutorial designed to help educators incorporate data into their continuous school improvement process; links to such online tools as Wisconsin's Information Network for Successful Schools and the Illinois State School Improvement Web Site; and information on two-day Data Retreats that NCREL sponsors for school districts across the nation.

Comprehensive Data Sources

You can gain access to many databases and government reports on the Web site of the National Center for Education Statistics, the primary federal entity for collecting and analyzing data related to education ( For example, the Education Statistics at a Glance link brings together data from The Condition of Education, The Digest of Education Statistics, and Projections of Education Statistics, and other NCES reports. Search these documents through their tables of contents, by subject area, or through title word searches.
For information about student achievement, visit the Web site of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), “the only nationally representative and continuing assessment of what America's students know and can do in various subject areas.” ( You'll find tables of detailed results from NAEP's national and state assessments in reading, mathematics, science, writing, U.S. history, civics, geography, and the arts.

Online Reports and Articles

The ERIC Clearinghouse on Assessment and Evaluation, in its Full Text Internet Library (, has assembled high-quality books, reports, journal articles, newsletter articles, and papers dealing with educational measurement and evaluation. Among the 550 items available in full text are Using Customized Standardized Tests, by Paul L. Williams, and Integrating Assessment and Instruction in Ways that Support Learning, by Andrew Porter.
To read about the importance of data, how educators can use data to make smart decisions, and how to communicate results to the public, download a copy of the American Association of School Administrators' 70-page guide Using Data to Improve Schools: What's Working at
To learn about effective data-collection efforts, read “Improving Teaching and Learning with Data-Based Decisions: Asking the Right Questions and Acting on the Answers,” by Nancy Protheroe ( This article from the Summer 2001 ERS Spectrum discusses how to select measurement instruments to collect data for many different purposes, from evaluating programs to making policy decisions, guiding classroom instruction, and diagnosing individual student needs.
Teachers who want a primer on measurement concepts and issues can download the full text of What Teachers Need to Know About Assessment, edited by Lawrence M. Rudner (see p. TK) and William D. Schafer, at This 111-page report published by the National Education Association offers practical information about different types of assessment instruments, how to prepare assessments, and how to construct and evaluate scoring rubrics.
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