4 Steps to Aligning District Resources to Student AchievementPosted on Sep 8, 2017 8:24:50 AM
Analyzing student achievement data can certainly be a daunting task for school administrators. This is especially true as districts attempt to tie student performance to financial and human capital. Often, the limitation of comparable data makes this work challenging as districts are continuously assessed by their communities and expected to communicate results and initiatives.
To fully understand and leverage your student achievement data, apply these 4 steps in your analysis process.
Identify Low Performing Groups
It is difficult to know where to allocate additional funds and resources without analyzing student performance data at the school and district level. Historically, many state agencies will provide comparable assessment data for various breakdown categories to allow for better understanding of performance within specific enrollment subgroups. In your process, analyze this data at the grade, school and district level to determine the peer groups that are consistently low performing. As a starting point, focus on the percentage of students “Meeting Standards” to create a benchmark in your analysis. Lastly, understand your district’s enrollment trends to evaluate how significantly the identified low performing group compares to the overall enrollment.
Peer comparison is a necessary undertaking as it strengthens or challenges a district’s current views. It uncovers insights that may have otherwise not been seen. In the context of student achievement, begin searching for districts with similar demographics. Enrollment size and low income counts are a good starting point as both measures often impact funding and resource allocation. Although there is no magic answer for the right number of peer districts to include in your group, it is important that the size allows for a meaningful analysis.
Read Beyond ESSA: How to Drive Strategic Decisions by Tapping Required Student Data Measurements
Discern High Achievers
The key to leveraging comparable data is to recognize the value it holds. It is often easy to only select and utilize the data that we feel comfortable with or that sheds the most positive light on the district. I encourage you to begin analyzing all of the data that is available. Identify districts that are continuously outperforming others in multiple assessment areas and measure against them in breakdown categories you previously determined. This not only raises the standard of your analysis, but it allows you to gain insights as to how your own organization can improve.
Compare Resource Allocation
Now that you have identified your peer comparison group, begin noting the similarities and differences that exist in major areas of the district. Ask yourself the questions you are trying to answer. For example, “How much support does a certain group of students receive from staff?” Apply this question to your analysis by looking at these metrics as they relate to low and high performing districts. When analyzing spending, expand beyond the “dollars per student” metric and drill into various district counts and variables, such as the ratio of ELL students to Bilingual staff. Take your comparison to the next level and ask questions such as, “Are the high achievers receiving more revenue from Local, State, or Federal sources? Are the high achievers spending more on instruction or a specific program?” This resource allocation study will reveal insights that will lead to further investigation, questioning and potential action steps from your team.
Understanding how resources align with strategic goals, and comparing this with others, will help your district plan for future investments. This process may not answer all of your questions, but it will guide you into how to best utilize peer comparisons and the key questions to begin asking.
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Adam Saleem is a Relationship Manager at Forecast5 Analytics, Inc. - a technology company focused on software development and data analytics for the public sector. Adam is responsible for providing west coast clients support and training on the data visualization platform, 5Sight. Before joining the Customer Success team at Forecast5, Adam worked in the Finance office at the College of DuPage. He received a Bachelors of Science in Finance with a Minor in Marketing from Northern Illinois University.