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Ohio Data Primer


Each module of the Ohio Data Primer poses a question and takes you on a brief journey of data exploration using a specific approach or tool. The approaches are direct and visual. The Data Primer helps you to learn by exploring and doing. Each Data Primer Module has a tutorial and a practice section. Each tutorial section walks you through a graphical approach to a question about data. Each practice section helps you use example data, as well as your own, to build similar graphs and explore their meanings.

Data are pieces of evidence. A single piece of evidence usually is not enough to make a persuasive case, so you will need multiple pieces of data. These pieces of data together must make a compelling story. Using data well is the process of identifying strong evidence and then structuring a reasoned argument. The strongest arguments provide the best support for decisions.

Module 1: Where Are We?
Numbers are about differences. We use them to compare. The big questions are about whether a difference is meaningful: Is the number to be trusted? Is it large enough to require action? If so, how urgently? Module 1 converts proficiency percentages to bar graphs that compare groups of students. The visual comparison helps illustrate the variations in student proficiency across Ohio. The pattern of these differences is evidence for the trustworthiness of the data and informs how big a difference should be before it matters. Only if we trust the data and are able to judge whether a difference is big, should we use the data to tell us where we are and how successful we are at the work we are doing.

Module 2: Where Have We Been? Where Do We Want to Be?
A difference that is growing larger usually carries a different meaning than a difference that is shrinking. Module 2 shifts attention to changes over time. It uses floating-bar graphs to show performance over time. Floating-bar graphs permit at-a-glance comprehension of trends and differences in trends. The practice section of Module 2 includes tools that build panels of multiple floating-bar graphs so multiple subjects, grades, or student groups can be viewed at once. These data-rich views permit nuanced interpretation; they are both direct and subtle.

Module 3: Are We Leaving Anyone Behind?
Percentages and averages are numbers that describe groups of students. Averages and percentages, however, hide individual student differences. Module 3 opens up the floating-bar graphs to display where individual students are in the performance distributions. It builds graphs that track each student from one year to the next. These graphs let teachers see which students are gaining or losing, how fast, and when. The practice section of Module 3 gives staff a tool by which to display the growth in performance of their students.

Module 4: How Can We Improve?
Knowing how students perform on the Ohio Achievement Tests is important. But, that knowledge does not say very much about whether a student's learning is on track in the current school year. Module 4 adapts the approach of Module 3 to focus on within-year tracking of individual student progress, using district, school, and teacher assessments, tests, quizzes, or any other relevant data. The highly interactive visual data displays show trends in real time, provide insight into the trustworthiness of the measures and data, and permit comparisons between groups as well as among individuals.


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