Wednesday, October 13, 2010

School Performance Data: an untapped resource

Patrick Emerson writes about school reform.  These lines stood out to me:

What is needed is a little humility and a desire to learn what works on the part of policy makers.  PPS, for example, is sitting on a mountain of incredibly valuable data, but as far as I am aware no real study of this data is being done.

Data indeed!  Every homework assignment, quiz, or test creates comparative data by student and class.  The volume of that data compared with standardized tests is overwhelming.  What happens to it?  Aside from being added to some semester average that ultimately results in a letter grade, what use is made of it?

Success stories like Bridger or Pauling show good things can happen when you actually use that data by making coursework contingent on performance, constantly evaluating and adjusting as you go.  Those schools make coursework dynamic, teaching students what they need to learn versus what the teacher thought the class needed to learn when they set lesson plans at the beginning of the year.  That is what information technology does best- making something specific and relevant instead of general and irrelevant.

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