Jan 26 2023
Data Analytics

FETC 2023: Make the Most of Your K–12 District’s Student Data

When data systems work together, administrators and school staff can benefit from collecting data on a large scale.

Use student data to personalize learning: The concept isn’t new. Educators have been doing it as long as they’ve been in the classroom. The number of times children raise their hands in class is data; the percentage of students who missed the same question on a test is data.

Where technology now plays a role is in scaling the use of data.

Educational technology tools are gathering immense amounts of student data. “Everything is housed in the school Google and Microsoft OneDrive accounts,” said Brittney Reeves, assistant principal at Gulf Shores Middle School, in her Future of Education Technology Conference session “Data Digging – Analyzing Student Data for Immediate Classroom Implementation.”

“We use Power BI for all our student data,” said an audience member in the session “Siloed No More: Unlocking the Power of Your Data.” Speaker Susan Bearden, director of digital programs for InnovateEDU, asked the attendee where he struggled to manage data; he responded that his student information system didn’t integrate with the financial department’s data.

In these FETC 2023 sessions Wednesday, Reeves and Bearden shared ways schools can take advantage of data at scale and use it to benefit their staff and students.

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How Data Availability Changes the Approach in the Classroom

In her district, Reeves spends time analyzing raw student data and pulling it into spreadsheets for her team of educators. When an audience member asked how to find time for that amid many other administrator tasks, another conferencegoer answered.

“I’m in the tech center in our school, and I’m there to figure out what data principals want to look at,” he said, adding that admins should contact their own tech departments to see how they can help.

Reeves expressed gratitude for her own robust school administration staff and tech coordinator. “Utilize the resources you have,” she urged attendees.

The process has allowed her to work with the teachers in her district to create structured personalized learning plans. On “data-digging days,” Reeves works with teachers to analyze data and set goals for students in their classes.

After setting a SMART goal — one that includes a specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound objective — teachers can fill out a template that outlines how they’ll help each student. It includes actionable solutions for students who need remediation and enrichment for students who are already where they need to be.

DISCOVER: How can student data drive positive learning outcomes?

Operationalizing her district’s student data has allowed Reeves and her staff to better support students’ individual needs. She said it allows educators to encourage students’ growth beyond the years they’re teaching them. Working with other teachers in the grade levels above and below them, educators can prepare for the specific needs of the students they’ll be teaching.

Interoperability Will Allow Schools to Scale Their Use of Data

Operationalizing data for individualized instruction can boost test scores and student confidence, but it becomes a point of frustration when data systems aren’t interoperable.

“Data can be such a powerful tool, and we have all this data in systems that don’t talk to each other,” Bearden said.

She spoke to a crowd that included many educators and IT leaders familiar with the frustrations of data analysis.

One audience member pointed to inflexibility as a challenge that stems from a lack of interoperability. “When changing your LMS, you have to look at the data you have and see if it will work in the new system, which limits the vendors you can go to,” he said.

To make data operational at scale, vendors must adopt data standards, Bearden said, adding that many of our technologies use standards today that we don’t even consider. She pointed to Bluetooth, ATMs and electrical outlets as examples.

She encouraged administrators to push vendors to adopt standards and, in the meantime, to check out Project Unicorn, a program within InnovateEDU. Not only does Project Unicorn advocate for data interoperability on behalf of K–12 schools, it also offers myriad resources on making data systems work together.

To ensure you don’t miss a moment of FETC event coverage, keep this page bookmarked and follow @EdTech_K12 on Twitter for live updates and behind-the-scenes looks.

Drazen Zigic/Getty Images

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