Data in Education
When you first think about data in education, your thoughts might jump immediately to test scores and grades, however, our students are much more than numbers on a page! Each student brings a unique set of strengths and experiences to our schools, requiring us to adjust and meet their needs in a thoughtful and timely manner. This is the driving force behind VizLab, a visual analytics tool that is designed to help BVSD school administrators and district personnel see and understand student data in a way that impacts student learning, growth, and development. A subset of the Strategic Initiatives department within BVSD, the VizLab team is working hard to develop and share data in a new visual way with the goal of impacting student success across our district.
The Success Effect and Data
As we move into the implementation phase of the Success Effect and make choices and decisions to impact students’ success, we will be employing a system to make data even more meaningful. Data visualization has been widely used across business and nonprofit sectors as way to help users make connections, identify patterns, and see trends across different variables. In BVSD, where student success and the idea of learning being both personal and personalized is so central to our work, we will use information in deciding where to direct our best resources–chiefly, our focused attention and instructional support systems–to make teaching and learning decisions across groups of students and for individuals. VizLab and data visualization are meant to help us in this work.
Planning and preparation for using this digital tool began early in 2016, with visits to schools to learn how they were using data to shape instructional decision making. After an initial presentation and learning session to school and district administrators in August, each school leadership team booked a small group learning opportunity with the VizLab team. These smaller meetings have been opportunities for more training as well as a chance for the VizLab project to gather feedback and information around what we can do to make the data more accessible and meaningful in order to impact student growth.
Overall the meetings and our outreach efforts have been well received. Nearly every single school site has participated in a visit, and we have added instructional leaders, like district literacy and ELD coaches to our user group. We have developed a comprehensive website,which includes our Theory of Action, an FAQ section, and resources for support. Our initial dashboards and data visualizations have focused on tracking progress towards the goals of the Success Effect and more specifically this year’s Unified Improvement Plans for school sites. As the fall unfolds, we are adding more data to what’s currently available, and looking into more how we can continue support the work of the success effect and student growth.
VizLab Next Steps
We have learned a lot about how school administrators use data in our first round of visits to school sites, and are excited about our next steps. As we develop district-wide best practices for using data visualizations, our goal is to ultimately become more efficient and thoughtful in making decisions that impact all of our students. We are looking forward to adding new data users with different perspectives, and learning from other school districts who have taken steps to incorporate data visualization into their work. Check back here (and our twitter account- @VizLabBVSD) for more updates as this year unfolds!
By Amanda Holden, Administrator on Special Assignment, with support from Jonathan Dings, Executive Director for Student Assessment and Program Evaluation