Did you miss the first in the series written by Chalk’s VP Analytics? Take a look here!

With great information comes great insights

This almost sounds like something Uncle Ben said, huh?

With online tools such as Chalk (come on, I have to plug the company I work for at least once) becoming more and more popular, the amount of information that teachers and administrators have at their disposal also significantly increases. Here at Chalk, we provide educators and administrators the tools to enhance all sections of the teaching feedback loop, from curriculum and content creation, to lesson planning and delivery, to student assessment and grading. See figure below. 

student data connecting dots in academics

Since we can tie all the information together at every stage, we can identify and answer not only WHAT areas to focus on for student success, but also WHY. We can answer the question ‘Is the student performing extraordinarily in certain areas, the teacher in their delivery of content, or is there something fundamentally differentiating with the curriculum content itself?’

Furthermore, we can use the curriculum, lesson, assessment, and attendance information to identify those students who may need a little nudge in the right direction.

Furthermore, we can use the curriculum, lesson, assessment, and attendance information to identify those students who may need a little nudge in the right direction. I know that many schools and districts have their methods of identifying students who may be ‘at-risk’ (and I write this next section cautiously because it’s a sensitive subject), but we can’t identify everyone through subjective methods alone. There are numerous teachers that I’ve personally spoken with who are very concerned that students may fall through the cracks, simply because there’s not enough attention or resources to help identify them.

But with data – including attendance, and summative and formative assessments – we can create models to assist in determining those who may need that extra little bit of help. By no means do I suggest that student models will be 100% accurate (especially not for teenagers =) ), but they will be able to surface those who may not necessarily have received the attention before. Again, this piece of information will simply serve as guidance so that those who can make the difference, the educator, can make the most informed decision.

Looking ahead

Above are just simple examples of how we can use current information to inform educators on what’s going on in their classrooms. But what if we had more, not just in quantity of data, but also quality? What if we can tie current, in-classroom information with historical trends for the student, class, school, and entire district? We can leverage the decades of research in statistics, modeling, and machine learning – research that so many other industries have embraced and reaped the benefits from – and combine it with the latest practices in pedagogy. We can use quantifiable results to identified areas of success and improvement in not only the student, but also the teachers, the curriculum, and system-level processes and structures. We can use data to change the educational landscape, one insight at a time.

We can use data to change the educational landscape, one insight at a time.

Again, that’s all well and good, and we’re starting on the right path, but what more do we have to do to get there? Well, I hinted at this earlier in the post (ok, it was more than a hint), but we, as an industry, need to understand what can be done with the information that can be obtained, and begin the process of obtaining it. This means saving more data for generating insights not only for the present but also for the future. This means moving into a more digital space where this information can be generated and processed in an ongoing, automated fashion. No more generating one-off Powerpoint reports that people will forget about after its original presentation. Only after the data is available can we use it to make an impact.

We will be able to identify how students learn best and how to cater content and instruction to suit their unique styles. We can surface supplemental material to teachers, students, and even parents based on detected areas of enrichment or enhancement. We can enhance the student models to help identify those who may need a little more academic support who would otherwise fall through the cracks. The possibilities are (almost literally) endless. We just need to make the first few steps.

Yes, I know this sounds like it’s a bit down the road, and no, I don’t know the exact steps on how to get there, but I do know the first steps. Let’s discard our hesitation and truly embrace what data can do for our educators and students. Let’s create a system where data can be used to drive decisions, both large and small, inside and outside the classroom.

Let us look forward into the future: one where we can give teachers and educators all the information they need to make an informed decision on how to improve student success.

Forget the 21st Century. That’s been filled with slow, clunky tools that nobody seems to enjoy using. Let us look forward into the future: one where we can give teachers and educators all the information they need to make an informed decision on how to improve student success in a smart, yet simple manner. At the end of the day, it’s the folks in front of the students making the difference. We at Chalk can only help the best we can.

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