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Ohio Data Primer

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Module 4: Tutorial—Where Can We Improve?

No Child Left Behind (NCLB) expects the all students to be proficient in the 2013–14 school year. Ohio parents no doubt would strongly prefer that all their children be proficient in reading, mathematics, science, and the other school subjects today. Reaching either target will require sincere, exerted, informed effort by teachers and instructional leaders. To accelerate instructional productivity, teachers (and students) need to know what works—now, for them, in their own classrooms, and with the resources available to them.

Access to better instructional programs will help. Better textbooks will help. Stronger community and parental support will help. However, the heart of this improvement will have to be improved effectiveness of daily instructional practice. Making that happen will require that teachers and school leaders learn better from their own experiences. Data can provide a record of what is done and what the results of the doing are. Still, without "seeing" the data, it is difficult to puzzle out what the story line is and what its consequences are.

Converting data to graphical form presents us with pictures that help us see the story lines in our daily work and help identify our most effective practices. We need to improve our measurements so we can get better data. We need to improve our skills in reading data to identify what is working. Just as we will improve our instructional practice by data-informed trial and error, we can learn to use those data better by creating them, collecting them, and using them to compare, define differences, and see patterns.

The four Data Primer modules provide an approach and a few tools to address five basic questions:

  • Where are we?
  • Where have we been?
  • Where do we want to be?
  • Are we leaving anyone behind?
  • How can we improve?

The first two establish a trend. The third lets us see whether the trend is sufficient to meet a target. The fourth looks inside the group to see the details of progress, student-by-student. Given knowledge of the trend, its sufficiency, and within-group variations, the fifth question aims to determine options for what needs to be done next. The questions then are repeated, and revised answers obtained. The cycle continues until the target is met.

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