Today’s schools collect an enormous amount of data on the students they teach. For example, test scores, attendance history, and homework completion rates are all forms of data that schools deal with every day. Unfortunately many schools fail to capitalize on this data. A 2014 study conducted by Matthew Kraft and Todd Rogers revealed that when data is shared with parents student performance tends to be better. This post looks at some of the best strategies for utilizing data, protecting data, and sharing data with students’ families.
First and foremost when schools collect data they have a responsibility to protect it. Since some data is sensitive, it should only be accessible to individuals with the appropriate level of authority, like teachers or counselors. Otherwise, sensitive data should remain private. Sometimes it’s necessary to update the system that stores student data. During situations like these, the school must especially be careful about who is able to view the data. That way no student’s privacy will be unnecessarily compromised.
Families can’t understand data if they are never able to access it. One way to make data accessible is to include it on each semester’s report card. In order for the data to make sense, though, it helps if it is presented alongside comparable data. For instance, an individual student’s progress can be shown in relation to other students in the same grade. It’s also helpful to include data from previous years so that parents can see how their child is progressing. However, it’s not necessary to share every piece of data that is collected. Too much data can be overwhelming. That’s why it’s best to focus on the most pertinent data.
It’s important that both families and educators know how to properly use and understand data. Families, in particular, will need training on how to use the data software. Since every family doesn’t own a computer, schools should provide public computers on their property. Alternatively, local libraries should be equipped with the appropriate data software.
Both educators and families should have the opportunity to meet to discuss data or receive data training. Meetings are helpful for educators because they are opportunities for them to discuss data trends and best practices. Parents can meet to receive group training on data access, and they can also network with one another.
In addition to parents that do not have computer access, there are some other challenges to consider. Even with access to computers, some families aren’t comfortable with technology. Other barriers include language and culture differences. However, barriers like these can be eliminated through training and transparency. Schools should explain why and how they collect data. They should also explain how this information can be used to benefit every student. Schools should ask parents how they want to receive data. Some families prefer hard copies while others are more comfortable with e-mail. Ultimately, most of the data challenges that schools face can easily be resolved with proper communication.