There is a very delicate balance to be had between being someone who uses data to inform their judgement about performance and someone who uses data to inform their judgement about whether a teacher is performing. I have alway s been wary about how data in schools is used. I have seen data being manipulated, used to encourage and used to discourage. There is no doubt that data has its place in modern management in schools but we still need to take all stats with a major pinch of salt. I always used to say to my former principal that I could pretty much make any statistics tell the story that I want to tell. We need to remember that the facts and stats are not the be all and end all. They give a flavour and a direction but we must look a little deeper beyond the stats at the people who are involved behind the numbers.
So, how can we handle data effectively within a school? The key is to make sure that data is used appropriately at the right time. A cycle for evaluation is a good way unto make sure that data is managed effectively. I see 5 major groups of information/ data that can be used to inform practice.
1. Benchmarking data
This is information used prior to a student coming into the school and then can be used to follow the progress of an individual through the school from ks3 to gcse to A level. This data often needs to be used in conjunction with target setting so that when teachers and students see where someone is – they can help to push the student to improve further.
This has come to mean the method of summarise assessment that a school might use to continuously assess the performance, achievements and effort of a student through the school year. Different schools have different processes for this but this is usually organised using the pastoral system.
3. Internal reporting
Tracking gives a continuous supply of information on assessment and performance but this is not always relayed back to parents. Usually formal progress cards or reports are sent to parents on a Regular basis to allow them to see how their child is progressing. Usually reporting involves some form of follow up – a parental meeting, a target setting meeting with a student, a learning conversation or a more formal report card to monitor improvement over a short term in a particular area.
4. External indicators
Increasingly there are a range of indicators that a school can use to look at whether students are performing as expected or whether they are under performing. CAT tests, YELLIS, ALIS, MIDYIS, PIE and PIM, can be used to assess whether personae levels are as expected with the ability of the students. A measure of value added can help to see how students are performing across subjects. In many ways the best performance indicator are the exam results that students get. These are the true measures of the school and the way that the external performance is judged by the wider public and the school authorities.
5. Attitudinal studies
There is an increased need within schools to find out what students think about school. Tis can help to identify weaknesses and concerns that parents and students might have. YELLIS can help with this as can things like SETAQ and Kirkland Rowell assessments.
The mass of information needs to be collected, collated, compared and this should help to inform the school how to improve. But, this is more art than science and leadership teams need to take care to ensure that the numbers do not drive the school in the wrong direction. Principals need to use their own judgement to prioritise and ensure that through all things the school continues to move forwards and that students and staff feel supported and valued through any process. There is a point when pressure becomes stress and Principal’s have a responsibility to protect, support and build up their staff as much as possible. The key is to handle data carefully . . . .