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MOVING EDUCATION FORWARD?


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The Data Committee

How do we improve education? This is a question for the ages, and it one that is still relevant today. At Stillman Valley High School, this is being addressed in a new way. Not by stories and anecdotes, or by tales of success and fancy narratives. No, the answers come from raw data, and those numbers and charts are compiled by The Data Committee.

A newly formed educational group, comprised of seven members, representing varying content areas, The Data Committee looks to bolster student growth, and is focused on being able to prove that.  When people ask, “How do you know students are actually learning?,” the Data Team responds with facts and numbers.

Led by Mr.Kusek, a representative from the History Department, the small group engages in data mining, comprising data reports, and using those reports to benefit students and teachers.

An example of the Data Team’s work is a close examination of the H.E.A.T. program, instituted two years ago. This after school program, designed to cut down on missing assignments and hold students accountable for daily work, was modeled after Rock Falls High School. Rock Falls has used the program with success, showing a sharp decline in the number of missing assignments for 9th and 10th graders, and consequently, a decline in the number of student D’s and F’s.  Stillman Valley has looked to the numbers to dig deeper, finding that the overwhelming number of students assigned to the after-school program choose not to return. “Hopefully, what we’re seeing is that the H.E.A.T. program is at least a deterrent. At minimum, students are avoiding being sent to H.E.A.T, and choosing to get their assignments done. Ultimately, what matters is that this leads to a higher level of understanding that can be transferred into improved skills,” commented Data Team member Tamara Wood.

Another question being examined is whether or not the amount of rigorous classes a student takes leads to more growth; as determined by tests like the PLAN and the ACT. Specifically, are there certain classes that yield more growth, what are those classes, and are they available to students early enough?  Delving into issues like these but using numbers to make decisions is part of the new educational landscape. “We are pushed more now to make data based decisions. There must be a more clear rationale for action than simply personal beliefs,” commented a local administrator.

For the past four years students who have shown difficulty with math in junior high have been placed in a double-block Algebra class during their 9th grade year. This class meets every day, providing consistency and twice the amount of instructional time. A study conducted by the Data Committee, to determine impact of the program, revealed positive results. Students enrolled in double block Algebra showed a gain of 1.885 from the Explore Test (9th grade) to the Plan Test (10th grade), where they only netted a .308 gain from their 8th to 9th grade year. Success has been quantified, to a degree, which informs educators as to further planning and implementation of programs.

For sure, education is much more than graphs and reports.  Data alone will not cure what ails schools, but it is an important part of problem-solving process, and it looks to be so for a long time. Each student is unique, has their own story and path, and we can’t nor should we try to quantify everything.  Great educators not only allow for differences they look to build on them, and each class offers something different. Yet, decisions must be made, and numbers can help make those decisions in a more responsible manner. It appears The Data Committee is part of our educational future.

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Stillman Valley High School 425 South Pine St. Stillman Valley, IL  61084

815-645-2230 Fax: 815-645-8145

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