School Improvement in Maryland

Analyzing and Using the Data

A major purpose of the monitoring plan is to put in place a system for the ongoing collection of data aligned with the content standard indicators/objectives you are responsible for teaching. You can't analyze data you don't have. And it is not useful to analyze data that is not aligned with your learning outcomes. Once you have the data, you are ready to analyze it.

How will you analyze it?

Your purpose in analyzing classroom data is to determine what your students have learned, what they need help to learn and how you need to plan instruction to ensure that they all do learn. In an Educational Leadership article entitled, "Developing Data Mentors," by Beverly Nichols and Kevin Singer, the authors say that "gathering student-assessment data is not enough. Administrators and teachers must learn to analyze the data and apply this information in the classroom."

There are a number of key questions that an examination of classroom data should address.

  • Which content standard indicator(s) was the teacher assessing?
  • What percent of students demonstrated proficiency?
  • What implications does that have for instruction?
  • Which students have not demonstrated that they can do this?
  • What diagnostic information did an examination of student work provide?
  • Based on individual student performance, what do I need to do next to move the student to proficiency?
  • Based on the class performance, what re-teaching do I need to do?
  • After reassessing, did my students demonstrate proficiency?
  • Is my re-teaching or other intervention resulting in improved student performance?
  • When we compare performance by subgroups (e.g., by racial group, gender, students with disabilities, ESL students, or students in the free and reduced meals program), do we see any groups not performing as well as the whole group? If so, what are we going to do about that?
  • Do we have any students who are not attaining proficiency across indicators?
  • What diagnostic information do we have about them to inform instruction?
  • What interventions have we tried? What interventions do we plan to try next?

Why graph classroom data?

The value of graphing data is that it gives a visual depiction of the information that, when done well, allows the reader to make quicker meaning of the data. This is particularly true when you have a lot of data that can't be quickly assimilated in a table format. For example, the following data in a table has been graphed. Which gives you the most information? They both contain the same information, but the graph leads you to conclusions much faster that an examination of the data in the table.

What graphs are useful?

You select the type of graph you want to use based on the information you are looking for. Popular graphs include bar graphs, line graphs, and pie graphs. You may want to consider a box and whiskers graph. In an Educational Leadership article entitled, "Developing Data Mentors," authors Beverly Nichols and Kevin Singer describe how box and whiskers plots could be used to report data collected over time, such as pre and post tests or parallel practice activities. "By simply averaging scores from pre and post test results, the teacher would learn that performance of her class as a whole had improved. Because the box plot clearly delineates low and high scores, the median, and the first and third quartiles, the teacher could see that performance had improved for low, medium, and high performance levels. In the graph shown, the low score had moved up almost 20 percent; the first quartile on the post test was roughly equivalent to the third quartile on the pre-test. The teacher had visual verification that she was reaching all of her students." If you need help constructing a box and whiskers graph, listen to psycometrician Bill Shaffer explain the process.

Another way to get a quick visual picture of who needs additional support in your classroom is to color code your data. For example, if you used three categories to define student performance in your grade book (e.g., basic - B, proficient - P, and advanced - A), you could color code all the B's red, all the P's blue, and all the A's yellow. This would allow you to quickly pick out who was progressing and who needed additional support.