Home > Uncategorized > Time to reboot eSchoolPLUS: Part 2

Time to reboot eSchoolPLUS: Part 2

January 27, 2012

Part 2 of a three-part series on eSchoolPLUS in Delaware.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Download all

Who is using HAC?
Unfortunately, we don’t know, because we are not running the reports that would tell us. It would be valuable to have statistical information on usage rate (how many parents are logging in each day). This is a common standard feature for major web-based information systems.

SunGard does not provide a usage report in eSchoolPLUS. But it does provide reporting tools which the Department of Education could use to create these reports, with a variety of available techniques ranging from the very simple to the moderately complex. This is already being done in Carroll County, Maryland. But these reports have not been developed and made available in Delaware.

In their RTTT Success Plans, many districts are stating that they will increase HAC usage in response to Objective 2: Improve access to and use of data systems. But it is not clear how usage will be measured.

Eight years later, we still don’t know the adoption rate among the intended users, which would be one measure of the system’s success. The answer might be surprising, and require us to think about ways to increase usage.

Some families do not have Internet access, or are not able to use the Internet facilities at public libraries. We know this problem exists, but we don’t know the size or scope of it, or how or where to provide assistance. With reliable usage statistics in hand each month, schools and parent organizations can spot trends, and identify where outreach is needed to put this parent involvement tool into the hands of more families. […]

Homework completion rate (and classwork, too)
Homework completion rate is known to be a powerful indicator of student success. But Delaware schools do not track homework completion rates, even with our new data-driven philosophy. eSchoolPLUS contains the completion data, based on assignments and grades teachers are already entering every day. But we do not report it, so it remains unknown.

A homework (and classwork) completion report would take that unused data and turn it into some very powerful information. Which schools, which districts, which teachers have higher completion rates? What are they doing to achieve that success? Does a higher completion rate correlate with success in other measures? Which students are capable, but are failing because they do not complete their work? – perhaps they need a different kind of intervention. Over time, consistent completion data will reveal trends and provide another valuable metric.

Routine capture and tracking of completion rates is not being done by any schools today nationwide, but it is easily achievable by a visionary and motivated school system. In terms of technology, it is low-hanging fruit, requiring nothing more than reporting data that is already being collected. It is a bit of a mystery why it is not being done already. It would be a cutting-edge feature that would make Delaware a magnet for research, and would likely lead to real and practical new tools for student success.

Performance data straight from the classroom – go get it!
eSchoolPLUS contains mountains of unused data, ripe to be developed into valuable new forms of information. Data-mining techniques could be applied to find better indicators of performance to help students sooner, or to better measure new aspects of performance, or to drive innovative new research.

Delaware schools have adopted a data driven approach, aiming to use data to inform decision making. But it seems that whenever the system wants some data to analyze, it requires another standardized test, or long-term data like yearly or quarterly cumulative grade averages. We end up looking mostly at high-level measurements  that are not from the classroom and are not daily, but span a marking period or more. This kind of data is valuable in its own way,. but is not fast enough to help students in time, and does not provide a window into the classroom.

So how can we get some data that is actually based on daily activity in the classroom? The answer is to look inside the eSchoolPLUS assignment tables and grades. That is where daily activity is recorded and stored. Few things reveal more about a teacher or a student than the daily flow of assignments given and grades received. But none of our metrics are looking there.

One report states (Bowers, 2010):

One often-overlooked form of data collected daily in schools is teacher-assigned grades (Bowers, 2009). It has been argued that in the U.S. we have a dualistic assessment system, one based on standardized tests that reports to administrators and policy makers, and another based on grades that reports to students, parents and teachers (Farr, 2000). […]

Additionally, depending upon single course failures may be too late for many students, since the negative effects of failure place the students farther and farther behind before the organization can recognize the problem and devise a solution. The goal should be to interrupt a decline in achievement early, before it results in future course failure.

Another idea is not necessarily to use the daily grades directly, but to extract and analyze metrics from metadata in the daily flow of assignments. The homework/classwork completion rates discussed above is one example. Other possible examples could include: How many assignments were given each week/marking period? How many of those assignment were formative vs. summative, or some other type? How long before the due date was the assignment entered into the system and visible to the family? How long after the due date was the grade entered and visible to the family? How many schools, how many teachers are using the advanced communication features of eSchoolPLUS?

All of these can be generated from data we already have, and would provide useful data about what is going on inside the classroom, and then correlated with other data. Some of these metrics may be useful and some may not. But once we begin capturing these metrics automatically, the data is made available, and the barriers to research are lowered. Metrics that are found to be useful can then be built into the instrumentation of eSchoolPLUS and regularly reported and tracked.

There is precedent for Delaware to support this kind of initiative. In 2004, Delaware implemented a database called the Correlates of Achievement Indicator System, which is the sort of data-mining system described above, except that it does not access daily classroom assignments and grades. This system grew out of work done at the University of Delaware led by Dr. Audrey Noble, and was part of an effort to understand achievement gaps among different student groups in Delaware. The research and implementation was sponsored by the State Board of Education, and supported by DEDOE.

Next in Part 3:
We were supposed to have a big metrics workshop. What happened?
Summary and recommendations

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