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What Data Can’t Do

I came across this fascinating article from the The New Yorker that really speaks volumes about how careful we have to be when it comes to using and visualizing data. Whenever you try to force the real world to do something that can be counted, unintended consequences abound. The COVID pandemic demonstrated just how vulnerable the world can be when you don’t have good statistics, and the US Presidential election filled our newspapers with polls and projections, all meant to slake our thirst for insight. The same applies to education where knowing what to measure, but also why you want to measure it, is the primary hurdle to tackle. We all have a tendency to naturally trust data as it aims to represent something we are observing. However there are times when simply even solid data is not enough for decision making. That’s why the context, the aim, and the balance between quantitative and qualitative data is so important. As the article states: “The great psychologist Daniel Kahneman, w
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Demystifying Student Data for Parents

I came across this great article posted on Edutopia on how a teacher at an elementary school shares student data with parents so they can help their kids with homework. Parents are used to seeing school reports but this teacher took it further. She has organized Parent Data Nights, events where she meets with each parent to demystify the reports, explain acronyms, test scores, and trouble areas for their child, as well as providing tips and tricks for helping their student at home. This type of work is becoming a new standard. It is no longer a question of IF but WHEN. These days Parents need to be engaged and data is an essential part of it. Parents are often confused about the school reports and results that are being shared either for their own children or wider statistics for the whole school and cohort. Having a data-informed culture also means getting this information to parents in a timely and accessible manner. Have a read and see if this might work for you and your school!

The Simple Genius of a Good Graphic

New graphics and data visualizations are emerging every day trying to portray the data and reality that surrounds us. However, like most things in the world, it is the law of Occam's razor that sets the bar. It is a principle of theory construction or evaluation according to which, other things equal, explanations that posit fewer entities, or fewer kinds of entities, are to be preferred to explanations that posit more. Or in other words the simplest solution is usually the best. This is especially true with graphics and data visualizations, a lot of times one can spend endless hours designing a new dashboard that no one is looking at later, simply because it is either too complicated or it's not answering the questions users want to pursue. Whether that is in education or not, we strive to present the information in the simplest way to enable teachers and schools take data-informed actions to ultimately benefit the learners. In this short, 5 min TED talk that is part history

Sharing Data to Create Stronger Parent Partnerships

I am continuing the thread from a previous post about Humboldt Elementary School that tells the story of a school’s data journey. This is a short video that dives into how the school has decided to engage Parents by using data. By sending home detailed data reports that foc us on a specific skill, Humboldt Elementary School opens a two-way line of communication with parents about their child's learning. This move has not only enabled parents to have a deeper understanding of their children's performance but also empowers them to do something about their learning. The video includes interviews with parents and how they interact with the school’s data reports and how it helps them understand their child’s growth and progress. It’s very inspiring to witness that simply by seeing the progress on simple charts has give both the students and parents further motivation to continue the work they have been doing at home. Quality data, visualized in an accessible, intuitive way, are not

Atlas Protocol - Looking at data

The Atlas Protocol is one of the most commonly used structured dialogue formats among schools to facilitate a conversation about data for teachers and other members of the faculty. Learning from Data is a tool to guide groups of teachers discovering what students, educators, and the public understands and how they are thinking. The tool, developed by Eric Buchovecky, is based in part on the work of the Leadership for Urban Mathematics Project and of the Assessment Communities of Teachers Project. The tool also draws on the work of Steve Seidel and Evangeline Harris-Stefanakis of Project Zero at Harvard University. The protocol gives a detailed step by step guide on how to prepare and conduct a healthy, productive conversation about and with use of data. It starts with a selection of datasets that do not lead to a single conclusion and generally lead to rich conversations. From that point forward, the protocol describes 6 stages the group has to follow with the help of a facilitator in

Using Data to Support Teacher and Student Growth

I came across this great video posted on Edutopia on how by tracking progress and building on it, a New Orleans preschool creates a culture of improvement for the whole school. It shows how the school is utilizing data by creating a cycle of continuous learning - How and why teachers collect data to assess areas for student growth and how that data, in turn, is being used to support the development of classroom teachers. Teachers now say “Data drives everything we do!” It's a fantastic example of how data culture enhances learning and provides tools for teachers for immediate intervention and places resources where they are needed most. The school realized that for them to be successful and provide high quality learning, they had to embrace a data culture! It’s about collecting evidence, facts about your learners and then taking action upon it. You can watch the full video here .

LAC School Spotlight - International School of Beijing

International School of Beijing (by Ruth Poulsen, Director of Curriculum and Assessment, ISB) THE SCHOOL Number of students: 1700 Grades: EY-12 Number of faculty: 200 Curriculum: IB DP, Common Core Accredited by: CIS Joined LAC in 2019 School Year  THE CHALLENGE What was the challenge the school was facing? ISB is very rich in the amount of data we collect, but we found that a challenge was that we were housing that data in various places. LAC gave us one place to start visualizing all of our data in one place. Why was LAC chosen? We started with another company at first, but LAC’s visualizations were much cleaner and easier to understand. We really loved the individual student reports which visualize various kinds of data side by side. HOW IS THE LAC PLATFORM BEING USED NOW Who uses the platform at the school? Our leadership team looks at schoolwide data together twice a year, once in October and once in June. Teacher leaders in various subject areas look at programmatic data once or

Wellbeing, Relationships and Teaching as a Caring Profession?

I came across this fascinating article in “The International Educator” that is very poignant for the current conversations taking place on Wellbeing, especially among International Schools. In this article Mark G. Harrison, Stephen E. Chatelier and Elke M. Van Dermijnsbrugge are discussing what is meant by “wellbeing” in schools, situating its current rise within the context of a broader school culture. They then go on to suggest that when wellbeing becomes a task for teachers to perform within a culture of accountability and customer satisfaction, rather than something deeply connected to the human relations of care, its achievement is unlikely and, indeed, an increased focus on wellbeing might even be detrimental. Wellbeing has become without a doubt an area of ever increasing focus for schools across the world. Given that teaching has generally been understood as a caring profession, this may not come as a surprise. And, given that the apparent need for wellbeing interventions has a

Data Journey: Discovering Learning Analytics at Zurich International School

(This post is by Andrew Blair, Head of IT Services and Solutions, Zurich International School) With over 1200 K-12 students and 280 employees, Zurich International School is an International Baccalaureate (IB) Organization World School and is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) Commission on International Education. ZIS is also approved by the Department of Education of the Canton of Zurich, Switzerland. It delivers a strong academic program, centered around the traditional core disciplines, preparing students for entrance into colleges, universities, or other institutions.   Due to an increasing collection of academic performance data from various internal and external sources, ZIS is continually seeking ways to improve the collation, correlation and readability of separate data sets for the purpose of informed decision making. Internal data sources include teacher-assessed subject grades, descriptors for standards and achievement levels for instr

Designing Best-Fit Classes with the Class Placement Engine

(This post is by Ben Hacking , Deputy Principal at the Vienna International School ) Established in 1978, the Vienna International School (VIS) is a CIS accredited, IB World School situated in Vienna, Austria.   The School serves students from kindergarten to grade 12 who come mostly from the diplomatic corps and international businesses based in Vienna.   Diversity is one of VIS’s greatest strengths and the School is proud that of the 1368 students attending, approximately 112 nationalities are represented around 85 native languages are spoken altogether.   This diversity is also represented amongst our approximately 270 faculty members, leadership teams and administrative staff.   VIS joined the Learning Analytics Collaborative (LAC) in 2017-18 after an extensive internal review of, and reflection on, our own data for learning practices.  Over time, we have worked with the LAC to develop a number of engines to support and empower our faculty with the data tools and inquiry processes

Making Student Data Part of the Conversation!

I’m sharing an article that tells the story of a school’s data journey. It is very typical of many schools around the world but also more challenging. A school that was once on the verge of being labeled under-performing, turned to data to move the bar on student success. It addresses the need of academic leadership and drive for change as a fundamental success factor in such a journey. Cole Young, the principal of Humboldt Elementary School, turned his passion for learning and data into a success story for the whole school. The journey wasn’t easy as the school didn't have a culture of data, and creating one was difficult, with school awashed with data and a degree of resentment and lack of direction among teachers. Young started by identifying key pieces of data that would be most useful for teachers. Humboldt staff met as a group to look at the numbers and talk about what to do with it, how it applied to research-based practices, and strategize collaboratively as a school. Recog

LAC School Spotlight - American School of Bucharest

American School of Bucharest (by Andrew Pontius, IB MYP Coordinator, and Fiona Moss, Secondary Vice Principal at AISB) THE SCHOOL Number of students: Approx 950 Grades: EC2 - Grade 12 Number of faculty: 180+ Curriculum: IB (PYP, MYP, DP) Accredited by: NEASC, CIS, IB Joined LAC in the 2017-18 School Year  THE CHALLENGE What was the challenge the school was facing?   The original challenge was just visualizing data. We looked at IB DP Scores, but very little other data was consulted on a regular basis, and the few spreadsheets that were created were looked at only by the leadership teams. Why was LAC chosen?  Andrew had used LAC at his previous school (ISPP), and found that it had helped build some productive conversations in a multitude of ways. When shown to the then Director, the ideas of what else could be implemented grew, and we began working with LAC.  HOW IS THE LAC PLATFORM BEING USED NOW Who uses the platform at the school? Mainly used in Secondary by a range of people. It is

Using data to inform decision-making within the Student Support Team

LAC Case Study: International School of Phnom Penh (This post is by Jonathan Smedes , Director of Learning, Teaching, Innovation and Impact at ISPP) THE SCHOOL The International School of Phnom Penh (ISPP) is an internationally accredited day school located in the capital city of Cambodia, Phnom Penh. The school hosts students from approximately 50 different nationalities and has a current enrollment of approximately 920 students from Early Years to Grade 12. Established in 1989, the school has grown from a small community school, servicing a few expatriate families, to a beacon school in the region, attracting students from all over Asia and beyond who make Phnom Penh home. It is the only parent-governed, not for profit, internationally accredited (CIS/WASC) school in Cambodia. ISPP is fully authorized to run the PYP, MYP and DP and is a member of host of other international organizations.    THE CHALLENGE In the Secondary School (Grades 6 to 12), the Support Services Team (SST) meets

Building and Leading a School Culture that Values Data Informed Dialogue to Improve Student Learning

(This post is by Megan Brazil, Elementary School Principal, United Nations International School, Hanoi. The post was first published online in 2016.) In a ‘silo schools’ approach, teachers have generally been left to work independently on collecting, understanding and using their own classroom data to make decisions about instruction, planning and assessment. Many schools have not yet made the successful transition from individual to collaborative: to enable teams of teachers to collectively analyze  learning data in order to improve learning outcomes for all students. What we know to be true in many schools is that teachers still spend a disproportionate amount of time planning instruction, but don’t place the same emphasis or effort on finding out if the instruction really worked. Perhaps then, less importance has been placed on finding time for teams of teachers, coaches and administrators to take a look at the ‘back end’ — the learning that has taken place as a result of the planni

Learning Data Conversations - A Catalyst for Building Collaborative Professional Cultures

We are awash in learning data in our schools. However, there remains a deep skepticism for quantitative data and, at the very least, a noticeable discomfort for sharing and analyzing quantitative and qualitative data about one’s own student learning. Teachers and school leaders who wish to begin looking at both qualitative and quantitative data in a systematic way for robust school improvement must begin to develop a professional culture that values talking about data of all kinds. Investing in data literacy and data conversations serves schools in fundamental ways: Embedding a collaborative learning cycle connected to student learning data and qualitative data as part of curriculum development and school improvement.  Developing a shared language and safe environment for collaborative and open-minded exploration of ideas that might challenge our existing mental models.  Challenging and influencing unproductive mindsets about student performance. All of the above serve to d evelop and