Consider a switch in thinking by approaching assessment data in a more supportive context. It should be used to clarify where we are, where we are going, and how we are doing getting there. Viewing data as a living system, may provide a much needed paradigm shift to what has become anxiety provoking for some educators, students, and families.
Frequently, headlines in the media use data to criticize the “failure” of our public schools or single out those schools that do not make adequate yearly progress (AYP). Falling prey to stereotyping and generalities, assessment data can be used to punish those who do not “measure up”. Consider a switch in thinking by approaching assessment data in a more supportive context. It should be used to clarify where we are, where we are going, and how we are doing getting there (Wagner, 2004). Viewing data as a living system in which we are continuously collecting, analyzing, and monitoring information to guide our decision-making, as well as celebrating, may provide a much needed paradigm shift to what has become anxiety provoking for some educators, students, and families.
One statewide initiative, Effective Schoolwide Discipline (ESD), which is based on the research around school-wide positive behavior supports (www.pbis.org), embraces this paradigm shift. One of the tenants of ESD is to establish a system wherein discipline data is collected, analyzed and used to make decisions about interventions. A team works with the data and shares the results with staff on a regular basis. For example, a team may present data during regular staff meetings where everyone discusses what is working (celebration) and what needs more attention (intervention).
Of course, the data output is only as good as the data input. One source of data input is an office discipline referral (ODR). An ODR can be used to collect many important types of discipline data such as student name, referring teacher, time of day, day of week, nature of the problem behavior, and location (Irvin et al., 2006). Most schools already utilize some type of ODR. The next step is to review the ODR to ensure that this type of data is collected.
Data output is just as important. Schools must have the ability and time to retrieve data collected, analyze it, and present it to the staff in a user-friendly, transparent way. Presenting monthly discipline data by location, infraction, grade level, time of day, and student provides specific insight as to what is going well and what needs more attention. For example, a blanket statement such as “Playground behavior is awful” does not provide useful information for knowing how to intervene. However, knowing that the largest number of ODRs is generated for disrespect by fourth grade females on the playground/recess area at 11:30 on Mondays provides us with very specific data with which we can formulate interventions.
Irvin (2006) and his colleagues have established preliminary evidence for validity of using ODR data for making decisions around student behavior at both the elementary and middle school levels. The literature suggests that student behavior and the social climate of schools can benefit greatly from data-based decision making (Irvin et al., 2006). Remember, behavior and academic performance are closely connected and worthy of analysis.
Florida’s Positive Behavior Support Project: This resource is an online module for data-based decision making around discipline at the universal level.
Wagner, T. (2004). Forward. In E.L. Holcomb, Getting excited about data (pp. xv-xvii). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
Irvin, L.K., Horner, R.H., Ingram, K., Todd, A.T., Sugai, G., Sampson, N.K., et al. (2006). Using office discipline referral data for decision making about student behavior in elementary and middle schools: An empirical evaluation of validity. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 8(1), 10-23.