By Eric Stickney, Director of Educational Research
“Just what do you do with all that data?”
A superintendent asked me this question the other day, and I understand where she’s coming from. The educators in her district have put faith in Renaissance products. She is responsible for the students who complete the assignments, practices, and assessments that populate our databases.
Massive databases. The Data page on our sister website, Learnalytics.com, provides a live count of the data we receive and store from schools across the US, Canada, and the United Kingdom. During the 2014–2015 school year alone we captured about 70 million achievement tests, feedback on 400+ million books and articles read, and results from 27 million mastery assignments in mathematics. In August the data ticker will reset for the 2015–2016 school year, and I’m betting we’ll surpass those marks over the course of the next school year.
At Renaissance Learning, we encourage teachers to use the data our tools provide to make instructional decisions. We know that students benefit when their teachers receive timely, accurate information about what kids know and like, as well as about the topics they struggle with or are ready to learn next.
Besides housing and safekeeping this information so educators have access to both current data and historical context, we also work to give this information back to educators in another way.
Every bit of information we maintain on our servers is used to share actionable insights with educators, parents, and students. We collect and analyze data with the end goal of improving educational outcomes, using the data to try to squeeze out every possible insight about learning and teaching. What we find is shared as insights with educators, and it serves to shape our development decisions.
Just as important, Renaissance Learning is deeply committed to the protection of school and student data. In all we do, we go to great lengths to provide aggregated data that is useful to educators, parents, and researchers while stopping well short of releasing information that could be used to identify any district, school, teacher, or student.
Here is just a sample of what we do with all of this data:
And that’s just the beginning of what we do with all that data—we’ve really only just scratched the surface. Our first priority remains to encourage and assist educators in using their data to make sound instructional decisions and effect change in their classrooms. Beyond that, we strive to practice what we preach. Just as we ask teachers to use their data, we endeavor to use the data we gather to impart as much insight as possible on issues affecting teaching and learning and to further the development of our tools.
We know the potential that lies in this data, so we continually examine it for other topics to research and share. Is there a research question you’d like to use data to explore? How do you use data to inform instructional decisions? Share your ideas with us below in the comments.