Gateway Regional High School

Data Analysis Procedures and Protocols

Useful Ways to Annotating Data

Questions to Ask During Data Analysis

Data and Standards Ground Rules

What is the Purpose of Each of the Five Types of Data?

What Does Using Data to Improve Instruction Look Like?

Causes / Solutions

Useful Ways to Annotating Data

✔= Affirms my prior understanding

! = Surprises me

? = Provokes a question and/or interest in further learning

Questions to Ask During Data Analysis

Data and Standards Ground Rules

What is the Purpose of Each of the Five Types of Data?

An overview of the five types of data depicted in the Data Pyramid—in order of frequency of use—follows.

Formative classroom assessments: 

Teachers use these assessments in their classrooms on an ongoing basis to track students’ progress. Data sources include student self-assessments, descriptive feedback to students, use of rubrics, multiple methods of checking for understanding, examination of student work, and tests and quizzes.

These assessments inform teachers’ instructional decisions—day-to-day, even minute-by minute—and serve as the basis for feedback to students to help improve their learning.

Formative common assessments: 

Teachers administer these assessments one to four times per month to identify student learning problems within grade levels or content areas. Data sources are similar to those of formative classroom assessments, the difference being that teams of teachers collaboratively administer and analyze these assessments.

These assessments generate short cycles of improvement and allow teachers to frequently monitor progress toward learning goals.

Benchmark common assessments: 

All teachers in a school or district administer these assessments—quarterly or at the end of units—to gauge students’ understanding of discrete concepts and skills. Data sources include end of-unit tests and common grade level assessments by content area (e.g., science, mathematics, English Language Arts).

These assessments closely align with the local curriculum. Teachers can access results quickly and at the item level (i.e., student results are reported for each item, with the items themselves available to teachers for analysis). Item analysis provides useful information on problematic concepts or skills.

Data about people, practices, and perceptions: 

Researchers recommend that schools and districts analyze this data two to four times a year to gain insight into the quality and equity of learning environments. Data sources can include survey, observational, and interview data about student populations, teacher characteristics, course enrollment, and dropout rates.

Often overlooked in schools, such data can help schools: explore systemic causes of underachievement; monitor results related to the implementation of action plans; and assure that diverse voices—by role (e.g., student, teacher, family, and administrator), by race/ethnicity, and by economic, language, and educational status—are brought into data-focused dialogues.

Summative district and state assessments: 

State agencies and school districts oversee the annual administration and analysis of these assessments to ensure schools and districts are meeting goals and standards for student outcomes. Data sources include state and district standardized tests.

These assessments promote accountability for student learning. Used in conjunction with the data sources described above, they help schools identify learning strengths and weaknesses and set annual improvement targets. Because they provide limited information about how to improve the performance of specific students in specific classrooms, they occupy a small portion of the data pyramid.

Source: Adapted from Love, N., Stiles, K., E., Mundry, S., & DiRanna, K. (2008). The data coach’s guide to improving learning for all students: Unleashing the power of collaborative inquiry. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press. (pp. 130–131.) Reprinted with permission from Corwin Press. All rights reserved.

What Does Using Data to Improve Instruction Look Like?

It would make educators’ lives easier if using data to inform instruction were as straightforward as this:

Unfortunately, this simplistic formula does not work for real issues in real schools. Aware of the limitations of single-source data analysis, educators today strive to interpret data from multiple sources. But considering multiple sources of data complicates analysis. Educators must make judgments about which findings connect to the specific issues they seek to address, understanding that few issues have a single cause. Only after analyzing findings from multiple sources can educators consider appropriate strategies to address the issue. A more accurate model for using data to inform instruction looks like this:

Causes / Solutions 

The following represent possible causes and solutions to questions and concerns that arise from the data. While this isn’t an exhaustive list, it can be used to help start conversations about how to address the reality we see.

Cause: Curriculum

  • Curriculum does not align with standards
  • Curriculum pacing results in certain standards not being addressed
  • Curriculum pacing results in certain standards being taught repeatedly, without new levels of challenge
  • Curriculum and assessments are not aligned
  • Additional ideas

Solution: Curriculum

  • Align the curriculum with the standards
  • Expand the curriculum
  • Adopt new curriculum
  • Develop technology-supported supplements to the curriculum
  • Align curriculum and assessments
  • Additional ideas

Cause: Student Assessment

  • Few assessment options (e.g., only paper-pencil tests, limited performance-based tasks)
  • Language used in assessments makes them inaccessible to high-needs students
  • Assessments are not aligned with the curriculum and/or standards
  • Assessments are not used to identify the learning needs of high-needs students
  • Additional ideas

Solution: Student Assessment

  • Buy, adapt, or develop effective assessment tools
  • Align assessments with the curriculum and/or standards
  • Schedule time for teachers to analyze data and discuss instructional modifications
  • Additional ideas

Cause: Teacher Knowledge & Practice          

  • Teachers lack specific knowledge to make instruction relevant and rigorous for students
  • Teachers lack proficiency in using instructional practices most likely to help students
  • Teachers lack the resources to support the learning of students
  • Additional ideas

Solution: Teacher Knowledge & Practice

  • Provide professional development to build content knowledge
  • Ensure that teachers have knowledge about students and their backgrounds
  • Provide professional development in instructional strategies
  • Support collaboration among teachers across content areas (e.g., literacy infused into content area instruction)
  • Additional ideas

Cause: Instructional Materials

  • Physical materials are insufficient to support teachers’ implementation of the curriculum
  • Language in instructional materials makes them inaccessible to high-needs students
  • Instructional materials don’t adequately support differentiating instruction
  • Additional ideas

Solution: Instructional Materials

  • Procure materials to support teachers’ curriculum implementation
  • Modify/supplement instructional materials to support high-needs students
  • Enhance instructional materials to support differentiating instruction
  • Additional ideas

Cause: Extra Supports for Students

  • High needs students do not have enough time to learn the content
  • Some high needs students require specialized supports that they are not receiving
  • Additional ideas

Solution: Extra Supports for Students

  • Provide more time-on-task (time before or after school, use of recess, lunch, or other “free” times)
  • More individualized supports for students within the class (tutors, paraprofessionals, specialists, and volunteers)
  • Additional ideas

Cause: School Systems

  • High needs students are not placed in appropriate programs for their levels of achievement and/or abilities
  • The school schedule and/or curriculum pacing provides too little time for in-depth learning
  • Additional ideas

Solution: School Systems

  • Scheduling that allows for longer classes
  • Teams of school professionals that examine and make recommendations on individual students’ needs and potential supports
  • Scheduling that allows for teaming amongst teachers
  • Structured opportunities for teachers to collaborate
  • Additional ideas

Cause: School Culture

  • Students lack access to academically challenging coursework
  • Teachers do not collaborate to share strategies for supporting high-needs students
  • Additional ideas

Solution: School Culture

  • Provide equitable access to instructional expertise and supports
  • Take steps to deliberately encourage the development of a collaborative culture
  • Additional ideas