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Ohio Data Primer

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Module 4: Tutorial—Where Can We Improve?

Teachers gather data about their students' performance much more often than once per year. If students' scores on annual state tests are to improve, that improvement will be driven by what teachers and students do together in the days, weeks, and months between the state testing dates. Many of Ohio's districts implement interim or short-cycle tests several times during the school year. Some schools administer their own tests even more frequently. Teachers still use quizzes, unit tests, and ongoing informal assessment of student learning.

Some of these district, school, and teacher tests are psychometrically well documented and sound. Others have unknown validity, reliability, and precision. Nevertheless, the data they provide influences instructional choices throughout the schoolyear. Teachers and principals need assurance that the measures they use are sufficiently accurate to support the decisions they must make.

Module 1 of this Data Primer taught that numbers are about differences, that the purpose of numbers is to compare. Module 4 returns to this emphasis. It builds graphical pictures that make visible the patterns in differences in students' performance over time; in doing so, it also provides visual evidence about the accuracy and utility of the tests that school staff use.

To make this clear, Module 4 presents data from a typical Ohio sixth-grade mathematics class. (The data are of course artificial, but follow real experiences.) This district uses the Northwest Evaluation Association Measures of Academic Progress testing program three times each year: at the beginning of the year, at the end of the first semester, and midway through the second semester. The school's mathematics teachers administer end-of-unit assessments usually every three to four weeks. These are based on the textbook and supplementary materials they use. Individual teachers may also do a spot quiz here or there if they have concerns about the class' progress at any point.

All these numbers end up in the teacher's gradebooks. If we could see into the gradebooks, we would find for each student the scores for every quiz and test, except when a student was absent. Some of the scores would be numbers, others letters, some possibly just + or – symbols. In addition, we would probably find records of homework, attendance, and possibly attention or effort. Here and there would appear notes, reminders, or exceptions. Most likely, there would be an average of some sort at the right-hand side of the page. Click here to see the example data we will use in this module. The example omits attendance data, averages, and teacher notes. For Data Primer purposes, the fifth- and sixth-grade Ohio Achievement Test scores were added to the gradebook.

Example Data

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