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Four Reasons Data are Used

Inconsistently in Classrooms    



Today’s education climate calls for greater accountability and proven student achievement through data analysis and reporting. Since 2002, more than $515 million has been awarded to states to establish systems for local school districts to effectively collect and use data to improve classroom instruction.

Student information systems, or SISs, enable school districts to gather and organize student demographics, schedules, enrollment, grades and attendance. Learning management systems, or LMSs, help plan, manage, track, report, develop and deliver course content. These are systems that can provide the needed data for the classroom.

Gartner Inc., an information technology research firm, has collaborated with AASA and the Consortium for School Networking, on a study, “Closing the Gap: Turning SIS/LMS Data Into Action.” The partners surveyed more than 1,750 teachers, principals and district leaders. The study found data are not used consistently across classrooms for four key reasons:

Existing technology solutions in student information systems and learning management systems meet the needs of district leaders more than teachers. The surveys indicate that the data from the SIS and LMS solutions aren’t used commonly for enhancing instruction. Forty-seven percent of school district leaders said they were satisfied with current use of SIS, and 75 percent were satisfied with their ability to support policies and planning for curricula and teacher performance. But they also say SIS is not effective in supporting state reporting requirements.

Three-fourths of teachers use a student information system daily, while only one-third use a learning management system daily. Teachers use LMS less than 50 percent of the time for content development and delivery — lesson plans, class participation, student messaging and student portfolios. Few teachers believed they got full value from the data in their SIS solutions.

District personnel disagree on their satisfaction with training on the use of data. School and district leaders insist various training options are available to teachers to support their use of data, especially in terms of applying assessment results to classroom practice.

Teachers disagree, contending that training in the application of data is weak and doesn’t provide instruction on incorporating the data in their classrooms. Seventy-one percent report that the data collected do not solve problems in their classroom, and 62 percent say data are not easy to incorporate into the curriculum.

Seventy percent of teachers also cite ineffective tools with no shortcuts, and 66 percent view the menu options and selections as “one size fits all.” They also complain about the time it takes to input data and the lack of information on how to tap into many of the installed functions.

Districts do not emphasize the use of data in the classroom as part of selection and implementation processes. According to the surveys, most school staff believe technology leaders are the ones responsible for selecting student information and learning management systems. As such, they “own” the project. Teachers are somewhat more involved in the selection and use of LMS initiatives.

Regarding implementation, 38 percent of technology leaders admit no specific practices exist in their district to encourage use of data in the classrooms, with 70 percent reporting little focus on how teachers should use data generated by student assessments.

The current education culture presents barriers to increased usage, affecting student learning. Teachers, principals and district leaders agree on this point, according to the survey: Mistrust can stifle the use of data. Some teachers believe the data will be used to monitor them and that tie-ins to student achievement could affect performance reviews, pay and employment.

District leaders admit that expectations have not been well communicated, which prevents teachers from understanding how the data will actually be used.

Teachers and district leaders agree that too much emphasis is being placed on standardized content and test scores instead of individualized teaching and learning.

Data Effectiveness
What will improve the use of student information? According to Ivy Anderson, a Gartner managing partner and program executive, all stakeholders must focus on achieving the long-term benefits of using student information and learning management solutions.

“In order for data to be used effectively in the classroom,” she says, “teachers need training to learn how to use the SIS/LMS solutions technology and professional development on how to set goals to enhance instructional efforts with the use of that data. It must be explained from the teacher’s point of view.”

Results of the surveys, as well as helpful tools and resources on using data more effectively, are available at www.turningdataintoaction.org.

Marian Kisch is a freelance writer in Chevy Chase, Md. E-mail: mariankisch@verizon.net


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