Measure and Maintain High Standards: How Larrakeyah Primary School Uses Data In Teaching.
Why the increase in data collection and analysis in schools?
The main purpose of schooling is to ensure that all students leave well prepared for their future. Students are provided with opportunities to develop the skills, knowledge and confidence they need to achieve their individual potential. In order to educate students, teachers need to be able to track and monitor student progress consistently throughout a term, semester, and year. Informed decision making is fundamental in education. Collecting, understanding and acting on student data is something teachers do continuously in order to evaluate their teaching and their students’ learning. This informs their next steps in teaching so that their students’ learning progresses.
The 21st century has been dubbed the ‘information age’. There has been a huge increase in data and information, and technology has made it available in raw and unedited forms in a range of media. Like many others in society, educators are trying to come to grips with this vast deluge of new and unfiltered information, and to find ways to transform this information into knowledge and ultimately into constructive action. Accountability and data are at the heart of contemporary reform efforts worldwide. Accountability has become the watchword of education, with data holding a central place in the current wave of large-scale reform. (Earl, 2005a, p. 6)
We are living in an age of accountability while simultaneously experiencing a boom in technology. Each feeds off the other. For a teacher, the central purpose of analysing data is to improve the learning of their students.
Today’s taxpayers, and governments, demand accountability of their schools; they look at numbers for evidence that things work, that money has been well spent, that learning outcomes have improved. Intelligent and well-informed educators embrace performance data as a useful means for directing school improvement. Sophisticated data collection helps teachers track individual student performance and explore new approaches and options. Now that such information is available, there is no going back to decision-making styles that rely strictly on gut feelings or anecdotal information. Comparative data across schools makes it easier to identify and understand what is, and isn't, working.
At Larrakeyah Primary School teachers reflect on students’ progress and adjust programs according to both quantitative and qualitative data.
Quantitative data is statistical and is typically structured in nature – meaning it is more rigid and defined. This type of data is measured using numbers and values. Quantitative data can be generated through:
Qualitative data is non-statistical and is typically unstructured or semi-structured in nature. This data isn’t necessarily measured using hard numbers used to develop graphs and charts.
- Texts and documents
- Audio and video recordings
- Observations and notes
When, and what, data is collected?
This is an on-going, yearly process at Larrakeyah Primary School. Assessment Timelines have been developed for each year level from Transition to Year 6. The Assessment Timeline sets out what assessments are going to be carried out and when they are going to be carried out. The following is an example of a typical Assessment Timeline for 2020. In a normal year NAPLAN assessments would be carried out in week 5 Term 2. Data is collected in the core subjects of Reading, Writing and Mathematics throughout the year according to the Timeline. Data is also collected by the teachers in other curriculum areas (The Arts, STEAM, History, Geography, Chinese amongst others) based on the units of work being covered during a term.
Download and view a sample Assessment Timeline (PDF).
What is done with the data?
Each term teachers are required to prepare a Program of the learning students will undertake. This Program informs the preparation of each teacher’s weekly Day Book. The Day Book contains an outline of each lesson. Analysis of student assessment data contributes to the preparation of both the Program and the Day Book. Data from the yearly NAPLAN tests, and twice yearly PAT Reading and Mathematics tests, are analysed to identify where there are areas of weakness that need to be addressed on a whole school basis. This analysis leads to identifying focus areas inform the preparation of Programs and weekly Daybooks the following year. Teachers can also identify areas of improvement for individual students.
In the classroom, data informs how teachers plan lessons, identify concepts for re-teaching and differentiating instruction to meet individual needs. At Larrakeyah Primary, teachers differentiate by proactively planning varied approaches to:
- What students need to learn.
- How students will learn it.
- How students will show they have learnt it.
Apart from use in preparing programs and lessons, teachers share and analyse assessment data with other teachers. This sharing and analysis occurs on a regular basis and across a number of curriculum areas, in particular Writing, Mathematics and Reading.
In Writing, teachers spend time analysing different texts to understand what makes a good text and to determine how the writer has constructed a text. They look at sentence structure, punctuation, grammar, meaning, genre, and ideas contained in the text. Through practise and discussion teachers are able to more readily understand a student’s text and how to help them improve their writing.
Collecting and sharing relevant assessment data helps students feel ownership of their goals and to plan for improvement.
At Larrakeyah Primary, all students set goals in Reading, Writing and Mathematics. Assessment data allows both students and teachers to clearly see if a student is improving and what further work is needed to help a student achieve their goal.
Where is the Data kept?
The main repository of student assessment data is GradeXpert which is a Student Information System that includes data management, analytics and reporting.
GradeXpert provides a centralised storage area that is capable of managing all student data, including any type of assessment and outcomes that are required by teachers at Larrakeyah School.
The Assessment Timeline indicates what assessments are going to be carried out and when, as well as showing what needs to be entered into GradeXpert.
Twice a year teachers meet with the Leadership team to discuss the data they have collected from their student’s. These sessions demonstrate that the teachers have a deep knowledge of where their students are at academically. This leads to improvement in student outcomes.
All of the data that is collected by teachers is used in the preparation of the Term 2 and Term 4 A – E Reports that are sent home to parents.
The preparation of these reports is a detailed process that involves recording, analysing and, finally, reporting of data. Larrakeyah Primary School has maintained a very high standard of student achievement in core subjects at Darwin, Northern Territory and National levels. Teachers work with students and families to achieve the School Mission to “instil life-long learning through high standards, high expectations and high achievement." The collection, analysis and use of data to program and plan lessons has been a vital part of this success.