New student data tool provides insight for educators

The Greater Amsterdam School District is implementing a new web tool to track students’ progress and identify those who are struggling. At the Board of Education’s regular meeting on Wednesday, Director of Data and Personnel Michele Downing introduced a new “data dashboard” that will be available for use by teachers and administrators.

The dashboard is a tool designed by eSchoolData, which Downing described saying, “It can be compared to your automobile dashboard, acting as a gauge. It can gauge our students’ performance, it can help us with our practices, and of course with the accountability piece.”

Amsterdam is the fifth school district to implement the system, which was made accessible to administrators the previous week. Downing said that the district’s data coaches will begin using it after the holidays, and will begin working with teachers to use the new tool.

The system collects information that is already being recorded by the district, such as grades, attendance, and graduation rates, and organizes it into charts and graphs that can aid teachers and administrators in more quickly identifying trends and areas where students are struggling.

Downing said, “I think what we’re seeing here, now district wide, is a system that can start off quite large at the district level, where we’re taking in the data and looking at the trends, moving on down to the building level where we’re looking at groups of students and then now the final step is going to be individually getting in, being aggressive with the data and using it to drive instruction.”

When teachers log in to the dashboard they can see their daily schedule, students’ attendance, their grade book, progress reports, rosters, and regents assessments. Each item can be viewed collectively as a graph to get an idea of how a class is doing overall, while also having the ability to look at individual students.

Downing said that while not all of the district’s data had been transferred into the new system, there is still “enough information to get us started, especially with the guidance counselors.”

Through the dashboard, guidance counselors are able to look at a projected final average map enabling them to see where students are at and identify those students who may be in trouble. They can also see early warning indicators as defined by the school district, a graduation map, and behavior reports. The new system will allow guidance counselors to recognize and intervene academically with struggling students earlier.

Administrators are able to view graduation maps for each subject at each grade level, attendance records by period and class, parent portal activity, the progress of students in relation to their parent’s usage of the portal, and student behavior.

The data dashboard can also be used by teachers to examine test performance. When teachers give multiple choice tests, they are taken on answer sheets which are scored electronically, and the data is uploaded to the system. In addition to overall test scores teachers can also look at how students did on individual questions to identify areas where students need additional work.

When a test is given across a grade level this information is reviewed by the district data coaches who then share this information with all of the teachers at that grade level. This enables those teachers whose students struggled in a particular area to partner with teachers whose students did well to come up with more effective teaching methods.

Teachers can also use this information to group students who require more work in a specific area together for targeted learning. While Downing noted that there were still glitches with new system, overall she feels that the district is “moving in the right direction and we have a good thing going.”

Ashley Onyon

Ashley Onyon is a graduate of the journalism program at SUNY Albany. She has contributed articles to The Mohawk Valley Independent and the annual journal Upstream.