Make Friends With Student DataImage composite: James Woodson/Digital Vision/Thinkstock and YuliaBuchatskaya/iStock/Thinkstock

Student data is more than just test scores. Find out what it is, why it matters, and how you can use it.

Would you groan if I told you I wanted to talk about student data? If so, I understand. It sounds boring, technical, and cold, doesn’t it? And, given all the tense media coverage of standardized test scores, the most well-known form of student data, many new teachers feel nervous about and resist dealing with data.

But, wait! Don’t tune out yet! I want to offer you some fresh, new ways to view and use student data that are far from boring and can actually greatly improve your effectiveness as a teacher. I’m here to tell you that you can make friends with data and be a smarter, more confident teacher with more successful students.

Why does data matter?

Data matters because it provides crucial information to us as teachers that enables us to better serve our students.

We must let go of the idea that “bad data” automatically means “bad teacher.”

Just as businesses have always relied on sales data to reward and replace employees, project future earnings, and plan strategically, we teachers can use data to determine our students’ strengths and areas of need. Just as politicians have seen many an election won (and lost!) based on effective (or ineffective) use of data, our effective use of data means being able to determine what to teach and which students will need our most intense focus.

It’s important to remember that behind every piece of data is a real student. Think about data as telling you a story about your students that you need to know to teach them most effectively. As teachers, it is our job to identify and understand those stories.

Here’s an example:

One year, when analyzing some test scores, I noticed that one of my student’s scores had dropped significantly from his previous two test scores. I also noticed that he had not turned in some of his homework for the unit (he usually did).

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