Unit Two: Identifying Useful Data

Target Objectives

Learners will be able to identify useful data to analyze for implementation into differentiated instruction lessons to increase student scores on assessments.

Unit Objectives

  • Identify learning problem or purpose for data analysis
  • Locate and identify contextual student data
  • Locate and identify standards-based testing data
  • Appreciate data as an informative tool to improve instruction

Lesson One

Differentiated instruction is a teaching strategy that can be thought of in many different ways. Teachers may just want to have students work with information in a few different ways so they create various lessons and materials to reach the various learning styles of students. However, another formalized way of using differentiated instruction is in response to student testing data. Basically, if teachers take student data from state tests, or even classroom tests, they can analyze it to see where class or student weaknesses are, and then differentiate instruction corresponding to those weaknesses.

Sherry L. Reed put together a workbook titled, “Hooked on Data: The Classroom Teacher’s Guide to Making Data Analysis Easy.” Though her focus seems mostly on schools that need to improve assessment scores, all schools can benefit from her work because no school is perfect or has nothing to improve.

The following is a section from the introductory chapter of “Hooked on Data.”

Begin with the Data
The work with data must take center stage in order for schools to reach specific, measurable goals. When starting a conversation in schools, my first question is always, “What do the data say?” Typically, teachers struggle to answer that question. Often, administrators and teachers speak in terms of averages and compare their students’ scores to overall state averages. They have never taken the opportunity to dig deeper into what the data say. I have found this to be true not only in high-poverty schools cited for deficits but also in affluent schools commended for winning blue ribbon awards! Schools collect mountains of data, yet teachers spend very little time interpreting the numbers to determine what actions should be taken. Mike Schmoker looked more closely at why we avoid using data in decision-making and found that the underlying cause is fear (Schmoker, 1999). My experience confirms his words. The data may be scary to teachers both because they lack confidence in the content of the standards and because they fear that the data may reveal deficits and a need for change.
To plan for effective change in schools, someone has to examine the data in the appropriate context – the culture of the school. And the people best equipped for that work are the classroom teachers who live in the context every day. Assessment data are just numbers until you define and interpret them in context. And once you do that, the data can tell the story of the school.

So, what DO the data say?

Read “Hooked on Data: Chapter 2: Assembling the Parts.” Media:HD_ch_2.pdf‎

This chapter discusses the importance of demographic data of a school and how it relates to student achievement of standards. Reed (2006) also addresses how disaggregating school data can be an enlightening experience and how the process can influence classroom learning and student achievement.

Respond to the following statements using information from the chapter to support your responses. Your responses may be in the form of a paragraph, bulleted list, graphic organizer, or any form with which you are comfortable.

1. Write down some types of data that the chapter mentions are part of the context of the school.
2. What does it mean by “disaggregating” the data? What do you see as benefits of disaggregating data?
3. How do you connect the ideas of analyzing student data, state standards, and state assessments?

Lesson Two

Personalizing the Information

You are now going to apply the ideas you learned in Lesson One to data from your school. First, find your school’s report card. For New York State, the report cards are found at the New York State Education Department’s website.

1. Go to http://www.nysed.gov/
2. Click on “School Report Cards” under the QuickLinks menu on the left. On the NYS report cards page, click on the link in the middle of the page titled, “Current Year New York State Report Cards.”
3. The most current year is the 2006-2007 school year. Scroll down to the last section on that page, “Information about the report cards” and click on the link “School Report Card Database for Public Schools in New York State.”
4. You should be on a page titled “nyStart.” One of the headings at the top directs you to “Navigate District & School Reports by…” so click on the “All Districts” to choose your district and then your school to view its report card. (You can also choose “All Schools,” but the list is longer and more cumbersome to sort through – that is why I recommend going through the district).

Once you have looked through your school’s information, respond to the following statements. Again, your responses may be in the form of a paragraph, bulleted list, graphic organizer, or any form with which you are comfortable.

1. What areas of context most impact your school? What do you think might be the local reasons for this?
2. Does any of the disaggregated information surprise you? Have you noticed the same trends in your classroom?


To review your thoughts, respond to the following question in any form you choose.

1. Having looked at the information for your school, have you noticed the same trends in your classroom? If so, have you taken measures for improvement?
Also, use the discussion area to share ideas on measures taken by schools and/or teachers to improve any areas of context that are in need of improvement.

References and Resources

Reed, S.L. (2006). Hooked on Data: The Classroom Teacher’s Guide to Making Data Analysis Easy. The MASTER Teacher, Inc.; Manhattan, KS.

Go on to Unit Three: Analyzing Data

Back to Data analysis for differentiated instruction

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