The use of academic data in schools can seem daunting, indeed, numbers, stats and facts can swamp teachers. Nevertheless, when used in an appropriate manner they can be incredibly informative, incentivise and be used for intervention and praise.
To me there are two distinct types of academic data that are available to the teacher in his or her classroom. ‘Outside’ data can come in the form of MidYis, ALIS, YELLIS, provided by the Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring, and that from the Fisher Family Trust. This data is compiled from a range of cognitive tests including vocabulary, Maths, non-verbal skills such as pattern and shape matching and skills of proofreading and accuracy and can ‘predict’ the best possible outcome for a particular student in GCSE or indeed A level subjects base on a final score. This can be invaluable as the predicted grade takes into account not only the cohort from that school undertaking the assessment but those from other school as well as historical data. Outside data can feed into ability setting, understanding a cohorts strength and also highlight particular areas of functional weakness that can be acted upon immediately, furthermore it can be sued to promote a schools value added score (the number of grades a student achieves above that which their data suggest). Nevertheless, and this is a point I would make about all data, this cannot be used as a brand for a student’s whole academic career. Indeed, taking a MidYis assessment at 11 can be negative, a student may be having an ‘off day’ or they may not have reached a sufficient level of academic maturity to apply themselves well enough to the assessment.
‘Inside’ data is that which is generated by the school itself. To me this is internal and external examination results and key assessment data from individual departments (end of topic tests for example). Again the application is much the same as it is for outside data, but this data is much more focussed on the individual school and the type of student that it attracts. I have used inside data to build data bases that will predict A level grades and provide working grades. Intervention is then tailored to the student and a fully reflective dialogue can be set up with them, this in turn allows a student to take ownership over their own learning and clearly understand where their personal targets for improvement lie.
Data can be overused and I have spent many hours filling in central assessment spreadsheets with no clear understanding of the point of the exercise. I have had discussions over data with colleagues over the years a number of whom dismiss it as useless, see it as replacing a teachers instinct or, in the most extreme cases, being used to hide poor teaching. This is wholly negative and is a poor reflection on teaching standards and the assistance that is available to get students to perform to their ability or to exceed it data should not be seen as a pure indicator of a student’s ability, nevertheless, as a tool in the kit of the teacher it can be incredibly useful and positive. So is data worth it? YES! Why not give data and tracking a go?