Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Data, Big Data Everywhere

I recently read a fascinating article that explored the data driven changes to the game of baseball. The convergence of the available cameras and technology and an increase in the amount of data that is collected on every play, every pitch, will forever change the sport.  This upcoming season, in some ballparks, 7 Terabytes of data will be collected every game that will allow both sabermetricians and fans at home to experience the game in a whole new way.  The data we’ve seen from the mound (speed, curve, and location of the pitch) on our television screens will now be extended to all areas of the field, leading to a very different experience for viewers of our national pastime.

In the world of education there is also a focus on the collection and analysis of data in order to improve student achievement.  We are not at a loss to find places for data for student learning: MCAS and other standardized tests, common assessments (think mid-terms and finals), authentic assessments, and teacher observation of abilities. Even writing assignments or projects scored with a rubric can be translated into measurements of student growth over time.

According to Victoria L. Bernhardt, there are Multiple Measures of Data that we look to in a school to begin our analysis.  This includes not only student learning but also school processes (processes and programs), demographics (attendance, enrollment, ethnicity, gender, grade level), and perceptions (values and beliefs, attitudes, observations). 

Every textbook and test publisher now includes not only built in assessments but also data collection tools and reporting functions.  The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has a new tool called EDWIN Analytics, available to all schools, that allows us to create reports and cull a vast database to gather data for analysis.  There are videos and tutorials available to help parents and educators better understand the student growth percentile on the state assessments.  Courses are being offered for educators in how to use excel to robustly collect and “go visual” with the data.  There is no shortage of available resources.

In fact, there is so much data out there that part of the process, for educators, is not only to learn how to collect and analyze data but also to learn how to navigate through this “superabundance” of digital information.

What does this mean for North Reading?  First, there is sustained professional development for all educators.  This includes the work that has been done in the past few years with our administrators and curriculum leaders about the importance of data for improving student learning.  Further professional development opportunities will include the technical and technological aspects of understanding how to work with data.  There is also a need for training in specific apps, programs, and software, including Edwin Analytics, to ensure that we are able to make the use of the tools that are available.

Our objective as a district is to continue to use data to help us make predictions, to intervene as early as possible and be proactive, and to enhance our processes for allocating resources in order to improve the overall quality of the education in North Reading for all students.  By using and sharing data appropriately with all members of the school community we have the opportunity to truly transform the educational experience.