Book Review

The Data Guidebook for Teachers and Leaders: Tools for Continuous Improvement

By Eileen Depka, Corwin Press, Thousand Oaks, Calif., 2006, 104 pp. with index, $24.95 softcover

While schools once lacked sufficient student achievement information to make good instructional decisions, many now are snowed under with data. And while we ask teachers to analyze student performance data, we often have not given them the tools they need to examine the data, identify patterns and determine the most effective instructional response. Many schools are data rich, but analysis poor.

Eileen Depka's book, The Data Guidebook for Teachers and Leaders, structures the data analysis process and describes the atmosphere of trust and acceptance needed to carry it out effectively.

Correctly portraying data review as collegial conversation in school teams, Depka, who works as supervisor of standards and assessment for the Waukesha, Wis., Public Schools, provides discussion starters, reflective worksheets, follow-up plans and graphics to guide the team's dialogue.

The book includes sections on reporting standardized and state test data, using district assessments, incorporating rubrics as feedback tools and involving students in classroom assessment. For example, in looking at state test results, Depka suggests how to promote team dialogue on reporting data, comparing test question types and completing item analyses. The short chapter on district assessments includes a format for a district assessment plan. The classroom assessment section focuses on the use of both holistic and analytical rubrics.

This book does not break any new ground, and it provides no evidence that the suggested strategies have been effective over time in increasing student achievement. Also I looked in vain for an integrative framework to tie the results of the various analyses together and to lead directly to both interventions for targeted students and classroom instructional improvement. However, for schools that need to take the first steps in turning a "data dump" into a "data delve," the processes described here could offer a start.

Reviewed by Ronald S. Thomas, associate director, Center for Leadership in Education, Towson University, Baltimore, Md.