Data is the means to reaching Kentucky’s education goals

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Education Commissioner Terry Holliday
Education Commissioner Terry Holliday

The release of Unbridled Learning accountability results last month was met with a flurry of newspaper stories, board presentations, parent workshops and a lot of discussion.

As expected, early reports seemed to focus on the overall drop in proficiency and the new state-provided percentile rankings for schools and districts. A few accounts rightfully noted the dramatic increase in the percentage of high school graduates who are college and career ready.

So, now that the dust has settled, the real work begins.

The online School Report Card provides a wealth of information that provides educators the opportunity to examine what is working – and conversely, not working – in our schools and districts. It shows how our students are performing, where achievement gaps exist and whether our students are on track for college/career-readiness, among other things. This is valuable data and we cannot allow it to sit idle on a server or in a file on a computer desktop.

We must drill down and mine this data for information. Collectively, we must use it to determine and define any problems; identify and evaluate possible solutions; and develop and implement a solution. We need to approach the evidence with the very same critical thinking and problem solving skills we are teaching our students. Most importantly, we must do this without pointing fingers or making excuses. The focus must be on getting better.

But that’s only part of the equation for improved student achievement.

Surprisingly, as comprehensive as the Unbridled Learning data is, for classroom teachers, it is not enough. While state test results might tell teachers which students are advanced or performing below grade level, they do not tell what kind of instruction those students need to master a learning objective or what errors in thinking might have led to an incorrect answer. To get that kind of information, teachers need the results provided by the consistent use of classroom-based formative assessments.

The Continuous Instructional Improvement Technology System (CIITS) provides Kentucky teachers with an easy way to generate and administer these assessments and use the results to determine how well students are grasping a particular concept. Teachers can then use this information to modify their instruction and re-teach or move on, depending on the identified student needs.

Whether it is formative or summative, as good or bad as it may be – data demands action. It drives change and improvement. It forms the basis for sound decision-making in the classroom and in our schools and districts.

When we combine our wealth of data and thorough analysis with research-based strategies, innovative teaching techniques and effective student engagement, we have the comprehensive plan we need for continuous improvement in our students and in Kentucky schools.

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