Special Report
Federal

Aware of All Students

By Rhea R. Borja — May 02, 2006 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

As the pride of this planned city in affluent Orange County, the Irvine public school system regularly sends about 60 percent of its graduates to four-year colleges and garners top marks on statewide accountability reports.

Feature Stories
Delving Into Data
District Initiative

Aware of All Students

Finding the Funding

Voices of Experience

Monthly Checkups

Tip of Their Fingers

Rising to a Challenge

Risk & Reward
‘National Effort’
State Analysis
Executive Summary
Table of Contents

With a record like that, it would be easy to let the successes of the district’s many high-performing students mask the struggles of hundreds of others who underachieve academically.

Yet educators in this 25,000-student district know that they can’t afford to coast. Though the district ranks toward the top on California’s Academic Performance Index, it must keep improving or face possible state sanctions under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

So Irvine school leaders have turned to data analysis and warehousing for help. Last July, the district partnered with Lakewood, Colo.-based Executive Intelligence Inc. to clean up and compile district and student-test data, receive daily updates from Irvine’s student-information system and online student assessments, and provide an easy-to-use Web interface for teachers and others with minimal database training.

“Although about 70 percent of our students meet proficiency, we still have 30 percent who [don’t],” says Mark S. Sontag, the district’s data-management trainer and math- and science-curriculum coordinator. “So we are using the data warehouse as a vehicle to make [us] more aware of how we’re responsible for all students.”

Teachers can now drill down into individual students’ grades, state and district standardized-test data, and benchmark assessments, and look at their achievement over time. Doing so allows teachers to track which state standards particular students have mastered, for example, and where they are falling short.

That kind of analysis would have been nearly impossible before the system was put in place, educators here say.

“I normally use pencil and paper to create my own tables and sort them,” says Andrea Wakefield, a 6th grade teacher at University Park Elementary School, during a district training session, adding that the process consumed many hours.

“Here, with a click of a button, … I can do a trend analysis,” she says. “Data is powerful.”

‘Reading Off the Same Page’

Wakefield sat in a classroom on a day in February with a handful of other elementary teachers and principals, learning how to use the powerful data-warehouse and -analysis system.

In the 2½-hour session, the educators viewed their students’ test scores from the current year, as well as for the past two. They scanned reams of data: State test scores. District literacy data. Online classroom assessments. Student demographic information.

Wakefield sat before a computer and easily searched and re-arranged data on her 90 students according to whim. She could see immediately which of them needed help in math, for example, or those who performed above grade level but whose scores flat-lined over time, perhaps showing that they weren’t being challenged enough.

“This makes my life easier,” Wakefield remarks.

As in other districts starting to integrate data comprehensively, the Irvine district offers three levels of data-system access.

The superintendent and other administrators can view data for all schools and students. Principals can see data for students in their schools, grouped by teacher or not. And teachers can view and sort data for their students.

While providing such capabilities may seem like a no-brainer, that kind of data access wasn’t available until recently, says Mark S. Williams, the president of Executive Intelligence, which works with about 100 districts nationwide.

In the past, most districts kept their student data under lock and key in the central office, he says.

“In the early years, most districts were afraid to allow anyone outside the administration building to see the data, or even admit that they had it. They were struggling themselves as to what the data meant,” he says. “Now, everyone is reading off the same page.”

Geoffrey Jurak, a 5th grade teacher at the K-8 Vista Verde School, says having the tools to access and analyze data in a variety of ways has made teaching more collaborative.

Teachers at his school meet in grade-level teams regularly to look at their students’ data and fine-tune instruction accordingly.

“We can course-correct in the moment,” he says. “I can see across a whole class how [students] stand.”

Sontag, who sat nearby and nodded as Jurak spoke, emphasizes that just gathering the data is not enough.

Numbers by themselves are meaningless, he says. Teachers and principals need to sort and manipulate the data so they can home in on where their students need more help.

“If we stop at just collecting data and doing reports,” Sontag says, “we have stopped well short of what we should do.”

Events

School & District Management K-12 Essentials Forum Get a Strong Start to the New School Year
Get insights and actions from Education Week journalists and expert guests on how to start the new school year on strong footing.
Reading & Literacy Webinar A Roadmap to Multisensory Early Literacy Instruction: Accelerate Growth for All Students 
How can you develop key literacy skills with a diverse range of learners? Explore best practices and tips to meet the needs of all students. 
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Webinar
Supporting 21st Century Skills with a Whole-Child Focus
What skills do students need to succeed in the 21st century? Explore the latest strategies to best prepare students for college, career, and life.
Content provided by Panorama Education

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Federal Use Your 'Teacher Voice,' Jill Biden Urges in a Push for Political Activism
Voting in the midterms is a critical step educators can take to bolster democracy, the first lady and other labor leaders told teachers.
5 min read
First Lady Jill Biden speaks during the American Federation of Teachers convention, Friday, July 15, 2022, in Boston.
First lady Jill Biden speaks during the American Federation of Teachers convention in Boston.
Michael Dwyer/AP
Federal Federal Initiative Leverages COVID Aid to Expand After-School, Summer Learning
The Education Department's Engage Every Student effort includes partnerships with civic organizations and professional groups.
3 min read
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona speaks at an event on June 2, 2022, at the Department of Education in Washington.
U.S. Secretary of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona speaks at an event at the Department of Education in Washington in June. The department has announced a push for expanded access to after-school and summer learning programs.
Jacquelyn Martin/AP
Federal Restraint and Seclusion, and Disability Rights: Ed. Department Has Work to Do, Audit Finds
The Government Accountability Office releases a checklist of how the U.S. Department of Education is performing on a list of priorities.
4 min read
Flags decorate a space outside the office of the Education Secretary at the Education Department in Washington on Aug. 9, 2017.
Flags decorate a space outside the office of the Education Secretary at the U.S. Department of Education. The Government Accountability Office has released recommended priorities for the Education Department that target special education rights.
Jacquelyn Martin/AP
Federal Biden Administration Boosts Grants for Community Schools, Sharpens Funding Priorities
The Education Department will award $68 million through its Full-Service Community Schools program.
2 min read
First-graders Rhiannon Hanson, left, and Holden Ashbrook make fruit skewers in class at Lincoln Elementary School in Dubuque, Iowa, on Jan. 20, 2022. Project Rooted has partnered with Dubuque Community Schools for a pilot program in which it provides monthly boxes containing local foods and a project to first-grade classrooms.
First-graders Rhiannon Hanson, left, and Holden Ashbrook make fruit skewers at Lincoln Elementary School in Dubuque, Iowa. The U.S. Department of Education is providing grants to high-quality community schools that provide wraparound services like the nutrition programs at Lincoln Elementary.
Jessica Reilly/Telegraph Herald via AP