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February 1, 2003
Vol. 60
No. 5

EL Extra / Using Data to Improve Student Achievement

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Welcome to EL Extra. We have designed questions to help you and your colleagues foster meaningful discussion about the articles in the February 2003 issue of Educational Leadership.
These questions will not cover all the topics contained in this issue, but we hope that they will help you generate conversations about key ideas. Feel free to adapt the questions to be more relevant to your school or school district. Although you can consider many of the questions on your own, we encourage you to use them in pairs, small groups, or even large study groups.

“The Seductive Allure of Data”

Does W. James Popham's article title remind you of a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode or lead you to reflect on your school and “think good thoughts laced with notions of evidence, science, and rigor?”
Many teachers and school administrators no longer believe in the instructional utility of data, writes Popham, because they routinely face opaque test data and undecipherable results. What do you and your colleagues think? What kinds of data are being used for what purposes in your school and district? Are they the “right” kind?

Collecting Data

Mike Schmoker (“First Things First: Demystifying Data Analysis”) asserts that teachers and school administrators must first have a plan in mind to use data effectively. In interviews, he found that hundreds of teachers didn't know their goals for that academic year. What are your school's or district's goals?
Schmoker also writes that teachers should frame their data collection with two questions: How many students are succeeding in the subjects I teach? And, within those subjects, what are the strengths and weaknesses? Discuss with your colleagues what changes your school or district could make to give you access to this information.
Victoria L. Bernhardt (“No Schools Left Behind”) suggests that educators gather and analyze four kinds of data: demographics, information on student learning, perceptions, and school processes. Does your school or district collect all of these data? What kind of data are the most important and why?

Judging Data

  • Is there a control group?
  • Are the control and experimental groups assigned randomly?
  • If it is a matched study, are the groups extremely similar?
  • Is the sample size large enough?
  • Are the results statistically significant?
Discuss the design of research studies described in the textbooks that your school has adopted. Examine the claims of advertising for education products and services. Which seem most valid?

Using Data

Thomas Guskey (“How Classroom Assessments Improve Learning”) suggests that teachers use the results of assessments to re-teach what students got wrong. “This second chance helps determine the effectiveness of the corrective instruction and offers students another opportunity to experience success in learning,” he writes.
Do you and your colleagues use assessments for this purpose? What are the short- and long-term drawbacks and benefits of using classroom assessments?

This article was published anonymously, or the author name was removed in the process of digital storage.

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