Each spring, many district administrators and leaders are tasked with reporting metrics to others in their communities – from parents to school boards – that answer the question, “How are the schools in our community doing?”
Analyzing and interpreting student data can be a time-consuming process, and it’s hard to know what conclusions to draw. Researchers at NWEA recognized the need to make this annual data gathering and reporting easier. About two years ago, they created the Insights Report, a 15-page analysis of district data to offer insights into students’ academic achievement and growth. It takes some of the headaches out of annual reporting by giving administrators a look at achievement in a variety of ways – such as by subject and gender – and importantly, by providing data about student growth.
Take a look:
Dr. Andy Hegedus was one of the innovative NWEA researchers who created the report; we talked to him about what kind of value it provides to MAP Growth partners.
From your conversations with superintendents and other administrators, what is their top concern?
They have too much going on. They need to focus on high-leverage areas with the limited resources they have. If you’re sitting in the superintendent’s chair, about half of your time is working with the school board – and it’s not all about academics. They’ve got to worry about finances, safety, buildings, bus drivers. There’s a lot of stuff on your plate that has nothing to do with academic performance.
That’s what this report is about. We tried to make it simple, straightforward, and really give them the information they need to help them focus on what’s important. We asked ourselves, “Is this a good reflection of what a board or superintendent would like to know?”
What are the top 3 things that all schools and districts are looking for in the Insights Report?
Without question, they are all interested in these 3 areas:
- The school comparisons on the quadrant chart – this is a chart with all of the schools in their district listed by status and growth. They can see which schools are High Achievement and High Growth; High Achievement and Low Growth; Low Achievement but High Growth, etc.
- Trends that they see over time.
- College readiness and proficiency.
When they use the consultation with NWEA, what is it that administrators want to get from the conversation?
Usually, they want to make sure they are correctly understanding the report, and they want to know a bit more about how things are calculated. They need to know enough to answer school board questions about what’s in the report. We usually get really good questions. Sometimes they just want to check their understanding with a data expert.
What are noteworthy trends have you observed from your consultations?
The report focuses more on growth than on achievement – while still covering both. It’s interesting to see how well that resonates with some districts and less so with other districts. We think it is the right balance as they look to understand the performance of their school system. They can really see how their school system is performing with a balance of achievement and growth data.
The other thing that’s interesting is that a superintendent recently walked up to me at a conference and told me, “If I give this report to my staff with something circled and a note asking a question, it will get everybody’s attention. What better way to model to everyone that I care about the data and making data-informed decisions?” So, in that sense the report can help communicate what the priorities are for the superintendent and deepen the culture of data use.