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A Guide for Teachers, Administrators on How to Use Data

A pair of national school organizations have released a guide meant to help teachers and adminstrators conquer an important yet often confusing task: how to make wise use of the reams of educational data flowing through the K-12 system.

The American Association of School Administrators and the Consortium for School Networking, along with Gartner, Inc., a tech research and advisory company, say the guide, "Closing the Gap Professional Development Toolkit," will provide a "step-by-step curriculum and cadre of professional-development resources" to help district and school leaders train employees on how to use data.

Why aren't educators and adminstrators more adept at using data? One reason is that few states require an understanding of assessment issues for principal or teacher certification, according to the authors. And once teachers enter the classroom, there's relatively little PD on the topic, the report contends.

The toolkit is meant to close that gap. It offers videos, case studies, references to reading tools, and specific teaching tools for educators. The report offers a PD curriculum that is divided into five sections:

• Building a culture on how to use data effectively;

• Creating professional learning communities, which can be defined different ways, but which the report calls "structures in which teachers engage in the regular habit of working together to deepen the learning of their craft to support the goal of student academic success";

• Evidence-based practices for supporting the use of educational data;

• Analyzing data; and,

• Technologies that enable the use of educational data.

The toolkit can be used across districts, as well as by schools, teams of educators, or individuals, the report says. For background on school officials' frustrations in figuring out how to make use of data, see my colleague Katie Ash's story from last year, "Data Evangelists See People Power as Top Priority." It describes how many school officials believe the tech foundation for good data use is now in place in states and districts, but what's lacking is expertise among all kinds of school officials is guidance on how to make sense of all the information. Will the new document help?

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