PxPixel
Case Study: Using Data Mining to Analyze Student Behavior - Tech Learning

Case Study: Using Data Mining to Analyze Student Behavior

A Louisiana district scours a year's worth of discipline reports for patterns.
Author:
Publish date:

Courtesy of InformationWeek In Lafourche Parish, La., middle schools supervisor Chris Bowman wants to understand how students get into trouble and what happens when they do. Bowman had a brainstorm: He took the 33,000 disciplinary reports filed last year by teachers and administrators and ran them through the school district's data mining system. It occurred to Bowman that analyzing the reports could provide insight into the root causes of disciplinary problems--tardiness, dress code violations, fighting, vandalism, and more--as well as the effectiveness of how the schools deal with them, and how fairly discipline is enforced. The reports generally contain structured data, including demographic information such as the student's grade and age, and a written narrative that describes the infraction. "I knew there was a wealth of data in these reports," Bowman says. "Inside all that information, in the narratives, were things I wanted to know about." The narratives include detailed descriptions of incidents, how teachers and administrators responded, and disciplinary actions. "I wanted to stop looking at anecdotal evidence alone and start looking at actual data patterns," he says. The school system, which has 15,000 students in 30 schools, had been using SPSS's data mining software for several years to analyze student test scores. Last year, administrators used SPSS's Text Analysis For Surveys to assess the results of a survey of 450 teachers, administrators, and other school employees. That experience gave Bowman the idea of applying the same technology to analyze the discipline reports. Bowman is using text analysis to search for and categorize key words and see if patterns emerge. A search for the word "uniform," for example, might show if teachers or schools are being overly strict in enforcing dress codes, while a search on "tardy" could identify habitually late students. Bowman can search the records of a student, school, or the entire district. Bowman combines those findings with demographic data to look for additional patterns. "I'm trying to look beyond the obvious and find out if there are hidden factors in why things happen," he says. Are kids from low-income homes, for example, disciplined for dress code violations? One thing Bowman hopes to understand is how seemingly minor incidents such as dress code violations or use of foul language escalate into more serious incidents. He hopes to shed light on the effectiveness of "intervention"--punishment such as detention or suspension--based on how often a student gets into trouble despite disciplinary actions. Bowman began experimenting with the SPSS software in the middle of the last academic year, when disciplinary reports hit 17,000, and is researching all reports filed during the year. He's refining the analysis, and results so far are preliminary, but there are indications that not all students are treated equally. Bowman expects that the findings, which he plans to put into a report for school administrators, will anger some people in the school system.

Featured

Related

How to Use Case Studies

Tip: Case studies are effective as a pedagogical technique for teaching content and as opportunities for teachers to experience problems in a variety of professional settings. Find or create a case study that focuses on a problem that is relevant to your teachers' or administrators' situations. Create or find a

DATA: Maximize Your Mining, Part One

Over the last decade, schools and districts have become increasingly sophisticated in their collection, storage, and analysis of data. And with the rise of NCLB, the focus of data analysis has been largely trained on ways to help schools achieve Adequate Yearly Progress. The more important and greater challenge,

DATA: Maximize Your Mining, Part One

Over the last decade, schools and districts have become increasingly sophisticated in their collection, storage, and analysis of data. And with the rise of NCLB, the focus of data analysis has been largely trained on ways to help schools achieve Adequate Yearly Progress. The more important and greater challenge,

IBM helps Alabama schools mine student data more efficiently

IBM announced its partnership with Mobile County Public Schools (AL) to help teachers, administrators, principals and guidance counselors mine student data more efficiently. MCPSS is Alabama’s largest school district, with over 63,000 students in 95 schools. MCPSS previously struggled with

The Case for Open Source

Open Source has made some significant leaps in recent years. What does it have to offer education? In these days of tightened belts, accelerated global competition, and a growing need to equip both educators and students with the skills they need to innovate, more and more districts are exploring the open source

What Makes a Good Case Study?

Tip: Teachers can develop or use case studies for their professional development program. However, a case study is not just collecting information about a program or writing about how a lesson was implemented and affected student achievement. A good case study: Is usually designed around a realistic situation and

Case Study: Special Education

How do you reach students with a 36-75 IQ? The answer is technology. It has been the answer for my class of nineteen developmentally delayed high school students. I have created a Web-based curriculum that matches their IEP goals and objectives as well as the NYS Alternate Assessment. The page is a combination of Web