Sep 07 2016

Classroom Analytics Can Have Big Impact on Educational Outcomes

Collecting student data can be a great source of insight, but best practices for privacy and security must be followed.

The latest research from the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) shows that almost 70 percent of schools have seen a jump in data collection in the last few years. In K–12 schools, according to SIIA, administrators primarily use student data to track performance, improve instruction and keep parents updated on their child’s progress.

As data collection increases, so does the potential to create positive change in the classroom. As discussed in an Education Week feature, the near future of data collection sounds a bit like something out of a science fiction novel — students wearing Fitbit-like devices and learning software that tracks their every keystroke. But the reality is that such forms of monitoring can have a meaningful impact for students.

The Power of Analyzing Student Data

This year, NPR reported on Grand Rapids Public Schools in Michigan, which used data collection to improve student attendance. The data collected by the district revealed that 7,000 of its 17,000 students were missing more than 10 percent of the school year, which qualified as chronic absenteeism. A yearlong effort to improve that number wasn’t very successful, so district officials decided to share the attendance data with the community. Now everyone could see the scope of the problem.

Chana Edmond-Verley, who helped lead the community outreach in Michigan, told NPR that putting the data out in the community made an impact.

“You got the grandmother on the porch, you got the business, you got the police, and everybody is lifting up our kids and pointing the way,” she said.

It is these kinds of outcomes that are helping the effort to create “data-driven” schools. Education Week’s spotlight on the future of Big Data discussed one such school. AltSchool, a startup with programs in San Francisco, Chicago and New York, is striving to collect all sorts of data on children’s engagement, moods and academic performance to facilitate better learning.

The school, which Education Week reports has funding from Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, has developers and engineers working on data collection tools that could be available at their campuses by the 2018-2019 school year.

Best Practices for Data Collection

As with any sort of data collection, concerns for privacy abound.

Last year, EdTech: Focus on K–12 reported on the student data privacy pledge that 200 companies have now signed. Under the pledge, education technology companies that are responsible for collecting student data promise to keep that data “in a secure, private and responsible framework.” Employees from these companies have also completed privacy training with the Future of Privacy Forum.

Experts recommend the following best practices for collecting and interpreting student data in a meaningful way.

  • As the privacy pledge states, make sure that schools collect only data relevant to education.
  • Create a transparent conversation about the data between parents and teachers. AltSchool has tools for both groups that let them view the data the school is collecting on each student.
  • Make sure that students are aware of what their data is. In an EdTech story, we discussed how Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools has student chats where kids, teachers and administrators develop an action plan based on data related to the student’s performance.
  • If data reveals a broad issue in a district, share the high-level findings with the community to solicit help in remedying the problem (for example, the Grand Rapids Public Schools solution).

This article is part of the "Connect IT: Bridging the Gap Between Education and Technology" series. Please join the discussion on Twitter by using the #ConnectIT hashtag.

[title]Connect IT: Bridging the Gap Between Education and Technology
Patrick Ryan/ThinkStock

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