How to Use Data to Prepare for the Upcoming School Year

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How can you prepare for the next school year when there are so many unknowns? During this recent Tech & Learning Lunch ‘n Learn leadership webinar, Dr. Kecia Ray talked with district thought leaders about how they collect actionable data that can be used to support back-to-school planning.  

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Key takeaways

Keeping it simple. When students and staff were sent home in March due to the pandemic, tracking student performance remotely was yet another unexpected challenge for leaders in Anne Arundel County Public Schools (Maryland). “We wanted to partner with teachers--I didn’t want to be another thing to learn,” said Anna Harding, Accountability Data Administrator. Staff was already using PowerSchool’s Performance Matters platform, so content and assessments were able to be implemented with very little staff training required to assess data. Harding and her team created accountability office hours and were able to provide how-to documents for staff through the platform portal. “We’re not shoving online assessments down anyone’s throats,” Harding said. “We’re just here ready to support them when they’re ready.”

Maintaining focus. By continuing to collect data, educators were able to see which kids were engaging and who needed help. Data collected in Spring will help inform the district for Fall, said Harding, who anticipates needing lots of data, including diagnostic assessments, to create a holistic picture of each student. “There’s no point in collecting it if you’re not doing anything with it,” she said. “Simply putting data in pretty charts does nothing. If we’re not using the data to impact students, then we’ve lost our vision.”

Seeing the bigger picture. “There’s always a story behind the data, but the data gives you a quick insight,” said Marnie Stockman, Education Solutions Director for PowerSchool. Stockman shared her story from her time as an assistant principal during which she worked with a high school student who had initially struggled in high school. By having access to his lifetime assessments data, she could see he had excelled in elementary school and dropped in middle school, so she knew he had the intelligence to excel. They then worked together to get him back on track and eventually graduate. 

Lunch 'n Learn with Tech & Learning 

This report is part of Tech & Learning's District Leadership Lunch ‘n Learn Roundtable series, hosted by Dr. Kecia Ray. In this series, districts from across the U.S. share their strategic plans, the challenges they are facing, and the creative solutions they are using to support students and teachers. Access previous webinars and register for our upcoming events here

More from T&L: Lunch 'n Learn roundtable recaps 

Ray Bendici is the Managing Editor of Tech & Learning and Tech & Learning University. He is an award-winning journalist/editor, with more than 20 years of experience, including a specific focus on education.