Sunday, October 28, 2007

Data-Driven Decision-Making and Educational Data Mining

Technology tools are needed in order to support efforts such as Response to Intervention (RTI) that rely on closer monitoring of data regarding student progress. The Winston-Salem school district in North Carolina has implemented a web-based application known as the Teacher's Workbench, funded in part by a Reinventing Education grant from IBM.

According to an abstract by Mark Singley, Richard Boehme, Lei Kuang, Richard Lam, IBM T.J. Watson Research Center, USA , "Teacher’s Workbench is a web application whose goal is to improve day-to-day instructional decision making by providing teachers with a finer-grained, more timely understanding of the ever-changing patterns of student proficiency in their classrooms. Teacher’s Workbench takes a three-pronged approach: First, the system provides integrated support for managing standards-based classroom data through the core functionality of a teacher planbook, student profiler, and access to third-party gradebooks. Secondly, the system amplifies the teacher’s ability to analyze and understand student performance by mining the gradebook, planbook, and other school data sources. The system alerts teachers to the existence of critical teaching and learning patterns. Finally, the system helps teachers act on these new understandings by automatically locating and delivering instructional resources in response to the patterns detected."

Business Tools for Better Schools is a website that advocates for improving educational data systems:

"...too often, educators do not know how to use the data system or lack training in how to leverage the information to improve instruction. Although collecting and disseminating better data is essential, knowing how to analyze and apply this information is just as important for improving student achievement. Business leaders, by tapping into their own corporate experiences, can help educators, administrators and policymakers understand how to access and use longitudinal data as part of daily operations and long-term improvement strategies."

In my opinion, school psychologists, given their backgrounds in measurement and data analysis, should be part of the decision-making process when school districts adopt new data systems designed to enhance student progress-monitoring.

If you are a school psychologist or educator who is involved in the use of data-driven decision-making to support Response to Intervention efforts, please leave a comment. What sort of software does your school use? What security and privacy precautions do you have in place to ensure the confidentiality of student information?

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