School Improvement in Maryland

Analyzing and Using the Data

A major purpose of the monitoring plan is to put in place a system for the ongoing collection of data aligned with the content standard indicators/objectives you are responsible for teaching. You can't analyze data you don't have. And it is not useful to analyze data that is not aligned with your learning outcomes. Once you have the data, you are ready to analyze it.

How will you use it?

Use of data to inform instruction is the critical reason we collect the data. Collecting student performance data and not using it to inform instruction would be a waste of valuable teacher time and yet that is exactly what occurs in many schools. The usefulness of the classroom monitoring data is to help you understand where your students are in relationship to the content standard indicators staff are responsible for teaching so that you can make informed decisions about what you need to do next.

Identify strategies to use data to inform instruction

Marcy Emberger, former director of the Maryland Assessment Consortium and former professional development specialist for MSDE, describes the feedback loop as one illustration of how teachers can use data they collect from students to plan instruction and to direct re-teaching. In this animated audio, Marcy illustrates the process with a unit on persuasion.

Marcy Emberger, Director, Maryland Assessment Consortium

Linda Eberhart was the 2002 Maryland State Teacher of the Year. She was recognized for her exceptional teaching when her 5th grade students at Mount Royal Elementary School in Baltimore City outperformed every other school in the state on the 1999 and 2000 mathematics state assessments. Though the state assessments have changed from MSPAP to MSA, Linda Eberhart's descriptions of how she used data to inform her instruction are as timely today as they were in this 2002 interview.

Linda Eberhardt, 2002 Maryland State Teacher of the Year, Mount Royal Elementary School

Linda Eberhart describes how she uses data to inform instruction and identify interventions:

Identify strategies to inform staff development

You learn much more from your data than how students are performing. An outgrowth of the monitoring process is teacher self-identification of their own professional development needs. This is particularly true when teams are examining and discussing student work. Teachers may recognize that they didn't write a prompt that assessed what they thought they were assessing and need training in how to write and align assessments. Or they might note that their students didn't demonstrate proficiency in how to apply knowledge on a certain indicator and realized they themselves didn't understand the intent of the indicator/objective..

Principals who lead data dialogues will also quickly see which staff don't fully understand or know how to examine student work, diagnose student strengths and weaknesses, know what good work looks like, know how to assess specific indicators, or know how to use the data to inform instruction.

Leadership teams from three elementary schools share below what they learned about staff development needs from their process of monitoring student progress.

Identifying extra time interventions

Linda Eberhart, the Maryland Teacher of the Year 2002, teachers 4th and 5th graders science, math, and social studies at Mt. Royal Elementary School. She shares her experience in using data to identify extra time interventions.

Evaluating interventions

All too often schools put an intervention in place and it continues to be offered without any evaluation of whether it is successful. Program interventions have an impact on school resources, staffing allocations, and master schedule design. More importantly, they have an impact on the students who are in them. You need to ensure that any program intervention is meeting the needs of students by meeting whatever student achievement goal you set for it.

In order to evaluate a program intervention, you need to be clear on why the program was initiated. What was the program intended to do? What criteria were used to place students in the program? Were students reading below grade level and you were trying to move them to grade level? How much below grade level were they reading? If you have not clearly articulated what the goals of the intervention program are, you will not be able to evaluate it.

You will need to determine what evidence will demonstrate that students have met the goal. Will you use a specific assessment? If so, what must a student score to meet your goal? When teachers know the end goal in advance, they are more likely to plan instruction with that goal in mind and to monitor student progress against that goal.

The next thing you need to do is collect baseline data on where students are performing in relationship to the goal so that you can monitor progress against it. Unless classroom grades are reflective of student attainment of content standards, they will not be useful in determining student achievement progress on instructional goals.

You will also want to put some benchmarks or milestones in place against which the teacher can monitor whether students are making acceptable progress toward the end goal. It is only by monitoring student progress that the teacher will have any information to use in planning appropriate instruction. The formative assessment data will provide the teacher diagnostic information to support her knowing what to do next instructionally to move students to proficiency. The benchmark data will inform the program evaluator whether changes need to be made in the middle of the year. The summative assessment at the end of the program will tell you whether the program was effective in meeting its goal.

When intervention programs are planned with the end in mind, the evaluation process is not difficult. When you inherit intervention programs that have not been planned with any end in mind, you often find that the teacher and students are unclear what the end goal is and have not collected baseline data against which they could chart progress.