Data-driven Decision Making…For Real This Time

Are your annual Academic Improvement Plans copied and pasted from year to year? Do principals simply tweak the percentages for math and ELA? Can they explicitly describe how they will move 4th grade Math from 42% – 70% this year? 

If we are being honest, we will have to admit that our efforts to improve student achievement have not changed much in the last 30 years. Your most recent academic implementation is more than likely new drill-and-practice software, or a new textbook adoption (Same as our Moms…and our Grandmoms when they were in school!). Our professional development is often the last cool strategy we saw at a conference or online to fulfill our District’s PD requirement. In the absence of relevant data, we simply “do what we’ve always done”. 

School Districts and Site Principals currently use quarterly benchmarks and the annual state assessment to evaluate overall school and district improvement. Decisions regarding the purchase of resources, professional development and staff recruitment are currently made with the same aggregated data, if any data at all. When used, such data does not really indicate where support is needed.

Now imagine if we had a data source that could tell us specific content areas in need of improvement. Specific enough to identify a school, grade-level, teacher, and even a student with a deficiency for every single skill and concept addressed in the state standards. 

Information provided by the Mastery Tracker App would enable decision-makers to use data specific to teaching & learning to tailor resource allocations. For example, evidence of District-wide deficiencies in 7th grade Math with standard 7.7 (or the code in your state standards) may trigger resources allocated for differentiated professional development, for middle school math teachers, on content and structures for teaching Proportional Relationships. Not engagement strategies. Not team builders. But professional learning to strengthen academic content knowledge!   

Similarly, the same specific data may be used to inform HR decisions in recruiting teachers with strengths in specific content areas (i.e., candidates with a reading endorsement for K-2, middle school math background, or Ed-tech experience where a 1-to-1 device implementation is planned.). To change direction and gain momentum we need more than just an employee in our classrooms. It is one thing to be able to do the math, but a completely different skill set to teach someone else to do it. We need to recruit teachers who can do the latter.

The data is specific to content, so school leadership can identify individual or grade-level teacher coaching targets, as well as differentiated professional learning targets. In addition, school budgeting can be influenced by student data, rather than by conjecture. For example, deficiencies in 3.NF.A.3 (or the code in your state standards) might lead to a budget allocation for fraction tiles or other manipulatives to provide a concrete model for conceptual understanding.

The Mastery Tracker App provides pedagogical data that finally provides school and District leadership with a clear view into teaching and learning. Imagine seating leaders from HR, Technology, Federal Projects, Curriculum & Instruction and school site leaders at all student achievement data meetings. District planning and budgeting would be authentically collaborative and with all interests aligned, rather than in traditional silos. 

The data analytics provide authentic insight into what our student customers are receiving, and enable leaders from every department to actively influence their educational outcomes. Until now, no such insight has existed.

These are the tools we’ve been waiting for to move the needle on student achievement!  

Jackie Hardiesty
About Jackie Hardiesty

Jackie is a teaching and learning consultant and founder of Edify Consulting. She is a former Director of STEM Integration, former Principal and former teacher.

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