Student Centered Data: Part IV

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In my last post, I proposed that data collection and reporting should be as seamlessly integrated into a teacher’s workload as possible. I also suggested that little time should be spent examining multiple choice results, and that instead, teachers should spend more time performing deep group analysis on student work across content areas through structured professional dialogue.

For my final post on this admittedly mundane but necessary topic (given its prominence), I will examine the following principle:

  • Data reports must be easily shared
Given that the world has recently discovered that the NSA is collecting a pool of metadata on our every online transaction, it’s all the more charming just how incredibly difficult it can be to extricate student information from “official,” proprietary systems of data collection. For example, here in NYC, we use  a well intentioned but overwrought online system called SESIS to create and house Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) for students with disabilities. Understandably, as these are legal documents, student privacy is of utmost concern and compliance with federal and state regulations is strictly adhered to.
However, there is a point where an IEP must not simply be written, but must be implemented. This is where it becomes incredibly difficult for a teacher to easily assess and track student progress towards IEP goals. Why? Because having an IEP on paper (which must be kept under lock and key) doesn’t facilitate easy access to student goals, and neither does having the IEP locked up in the online system, requiring time consuming navigation of convoluted pull down menus and screens to arrive at each specific goal.
There are well-meaning folks out there, such as the ones at Goalbook, which aspire to help educators better implement IEPs. But unfortunately, the process of transferring a student’s IEP goals from SESIS to a system like Goalbook (or a Google spreadsheet or whatever) is extremely time consuming. I know, because I did it. It took me well over a month of my free time (yes, I spent some of my winter break doing this) to go into each individual student’s individual goals and copy and paste (then edit to correct for altered formatting) into the other system. At the end of the day, I had all the student’s IEP goals from my school in one online tracking system! Great!
Problem was, I couldn’t force my other special education teachers working with me to use the system, nor do I blame them for not having the time nor inclination to jump into yet another online portal. So my exercise was largely pointless, other than as a lesson to me which I am now sharing with you.
While a student’s information should always be strictly confidential, keeping their data locked up in proprietary systems does little to aid either the student nor the teacher struggling to help them.
At some point, that information must be exportable at the discretion of the teacher, and it must be exportable in multiple formats that will allow for operability with a variety of other systems.

And of course, students and parents should have open access to their data at all times.

Seems like common sense, but unfortunately, as I mentioned in my last post, many data systems used in schools are not designed with end users in mind.

That’s a Wrap
To review the points which I’ve made regarding data in public education, let me review the three principles we’ve explored and see what key takeaways I can leave you with.

Just to clarify, in case the title of these posts hasn’t tipped you off, the point of all these recommendations is to frame the use of data in schools as to how it can most benefit students, as opposed to please adults who love colorful data reports and torturing each other by talking about data at meetings.

Key takeaways, with helpful highlights in bold and cute slogans on top:

Pay attention to the students in front of you
Any technology that is used for the purpose of data collection must be as hands-off and eyes-on as possible.

Current technologies which are mostly hands-off and eyes-on:

  • Paper checklists 
  • Video cameras 
  • Audio recordings 

Authentic, meaningful, and relevant data
The best data to examine is real student work from classroom assignments, not multiple choice test data.

Acknowledge superficiality

If we must examine multiple choice test data, automate the data collection and reporting process as much as possible so that analysis can be swift.

Real conversations about real students
The best method to exam student data is in the context of professional dialogue between teachers of different content areas.

Free range data
Allow data to be freely exportable, within reasonable limits with respect to privacy, of course.

Just a reminder
Technology is not a panacea. Especially in the realm of education. Rinse and repeat.

Was this boring series of posts on data useful at all to you? Please let me know if so, it would cheer me up greatly and help me feel that this wasn’t a pointless exercise in bloviation. Back to our regular program of Schools as Ecosystems, and piiiiiigs iiiiiiiin spaaaaaaace. . .


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