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Ohio Data Primer

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Module 4: Tutorial—Where Can We Improve?

Example Data

To the right, you see a graph similar to the last one on the previous Tutorial page and using the same students and data, but drawn using the Data Primer's own approach. Let's see what we need to know to be able to make good use of it.

We expect students' learning to accumulate over time. How can we see that in charts like this? What patterns should we look for? Some frequent tests, like the unit tests, change in content with every successive unit. Even the Northwest Evaluation Association's MAP test and the Ohio Achievement Test (OAT) change in content over time. But, in a chart like this because every test is plotted on its own scale, a horizontal trend implies students are learning what they are expected to learn for the time period (assuming the test measure accurately). Horizontals in the upper part of the graph suggest learning is occurring at reasonably high levels; horizontal lines in the lower half of the graph suggest steady learning but at lower levels. Students who are beginning to learn more rapidly than others, who are catching up or accelerating, will show trajectories that tend upward. Students who are falling behind will show declining trends.

The data are plotted along a timeline. The horizontal spaces between the data are not equal, as in most graphs. Here the spacing corresponds to the passing of time so some measures are close together, others farther apart. Since what teachers and students do together is driven by the schedule of the school year, the performance data too should pay attention to the passage of time.

Despite this greater realism, the pattern of lines and trends in this plot appears chaotic: there are lots of ups and downs. Some of that captures how differently students learn in response to the variety of lessons taught throughout a year. Learning is never absolutely consistent in real life; nor is measurement ever perfect in real classrooms. If the tests and quizzes are not of good quality, plots like this will be extremely chaotic. Interpreting what we see in the plot requires good knowledge of the instruction delivered, the students reported on, and understanding of the measures being used. Fortunately, most teachers are knowledgeable about all three in their own classrooms.

Given consistent instruction, good measurement will show up on these plots as patterns of lines that do not often cross each other. Here is an example, showing the fifth- and sixth-grade OAT and NWEA results.

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