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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Using data, asking the right questions

Using data, asking the right questions

Related Tags: School Leadership
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Advice sought from administrators: What questions would you ask if your state test data showed the following trend in test scores with a steady rise in scores from first recorded year, a drastic two year drop, then a sharp increase again? Year Percent passing 2010 79% 2009 69% 2008 71% 2007 87% 2006 84% 2005 79% 2004 67% What questions should be asked, what further data would you look into to help explain the drop in schools over that two year period?

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Eric Sheninger's picture
Eric Sheninger
Principal at New Milford High School
Blogger 2014
Facilitator 2014

I wold look at student mobility (immigration/emigration), teacher turnover, and possibly class size.

E.M.Runkle's picture

Agree with Eric, but also would look at two other issues. Were new school leaders hired? Also look to the community. Was there a major crises such a large number of job losses due to a major industry shutting down? Our students come to school everyday bearing excess problems they cannot control, but controls their ability to focus on learning.

Kathy lindstrom's picture
Kathy lindstrom
High School Language Arts /AP teachers

Interesting. I wouldn't have thought as much about the "major crises," but now that I do, the crises actually came after the drop in scores, so would have affect this year, which actually saw an increase in scores.

Students mobility -- in other words, how consistent has the students' education been?

Teacher turnover -- during the years that showed a drop in scores vs. the years showing increase?

Finally, what is your first impulse: to "blame" the students (they just didn't try as hard, they have lower ability, they have more behavioral problems) or to ask what could "we" (the school, admin., teachers) could have done better?

Melissa's picture

How big is the school? How many students does each percentage point represent? If the school is small, something like a factory closing and many parents losing their jobs could explain it.

Also, was the passing score on the test changed? In my state there is sometimes a jump of 4-5 points from one year to the next. This could explain it if you had a lot of students who were barely passing.

I would look for trends among the students who were part of the drop. Did they pass their tests the year before? Did all of them have the same reading teacher? Did their living conditions or family situation change?

Kathy lindstrom's picture
Kathy lindstrom
High School Language Arts /AP teachers

[quote]Advice sought from administrators:

What questions would you ask if your state test data showed the following trend in test scores with a steady rise in scores from first recorded year, a drastic two year drop, then a sharp increase again?
Charter school 550 students 9-12 gr. The school practices "looping", so approx. 80% of students had the same teacher for 9th & 10th grade years.
Year Percent passing Teacher Cohort size
2010 79% X (returned) 110
2009 69% Z (10 yr. vet, 2 yr at the school) 130
2008 71% Y (5 ur vet. 2 yr @ the school) 130
2007 87% X 150 (peak yr. in school growth)
2006 84% X 140
2005 79% X 125
2004 67% X (first year of testing, 88
new test to school)

Some other facts to note: Teacher X did not teach the two years because school leader wanted to give new curriculum director the opportunity to manage the testing and teachers for this test. As a result, no teacher collaboration occur during 2008 & 2009.

Additionally, fall out from the economic down turn did not truly impact the school until the 2009-2010 school year when the school lost over 100 students, experienced the highest ever turnover rate in students migration during the year, and only 50% of the students testing in 2010 were returning students from previous year. The others were new to the school.

So now, given that new information, what questions should be asked, what further data would you look into to help explain the drop in schools over that two year period?

Lori Rea's picture

Guiding questions
Examine cohort trend data - cohort 1 over time.
Examine stratigies teacher X is using. Research indicates that whenever a strategy is used consistently across a grade, school, etc., results of students will increase.
If this strategy is working, duplicate it in some way so that teacher Y and Z can use it. Support with appropriate PD to ensure mastery. Stick with what is working.

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