Analyzing Data and Assessing Local Needs

Welcome to the Quality Schooling Framework-also
called the QSF. The California Department of Education developed the QSF to assist educators
as they work to ensure that the students in their schools are learning and thriving. This
video describes methods of analyzing data and assessing local needs as part of the planning
cycle. The QSF video for Developing Effective School and District Plans describes the various
roles of parents, students, teachers, administrators, the local school board and community members
in creating and implementing school plans. All members of the school community must have
appropriate access to school and district data to effectively fulfill these roles in
the development, implementation and accountability for local plans. Schools and districts generate
a lot of data – but using these data to improve student achievement can be a daunting
task. A systematic approach to selecting, organizing, and analyzing data will help prevent
data overload. To select the right data for the needs assessment, start by reviewing local
priorities. For example, the local school board may be concerned about safety issues,
elementary schools may have recently begun a new early literacy program, or the district
may be supporting a new state and federal emphasis on college and career readiness.
With these local priorities in mind, determine the questions on which the needs assessment
will focus. The focus questions will guide the selection of data sources for the needs
assessment. Dr. Victoria Bernhardt, a California researcher in educational data analysis, has
identified four basic categories of data: demographic data, student learning data, perceptions
data, and school processes data. Demographic data describe school populations and are typically
found in student information systems. Demographic data address questions such as, “Have student
dropout rates decreasedin the past five years?” or “Has the number of English learners increased
over the past three years?” Student learning data may be gathered from local assessments,
teacher grading records and statewide reports. These data answer questions such as, “Are
reading scores for third grade students improving?” or “Do middle school students’ math grades
reflect their standardized test scores in math?” Student learning data are more accurate
and more informative when multiple sources of data are used. Perceptions data are typically
collected through surveys, interviews, and focus groups. These data address questions
such as, “Do parents believe the schools in our district are safe?” or “Do students and
teachers feel welcome in our schools?” School processes data might be included in written
policies, reports, and plans, or they might need to be acquired through interviews or
informal conversations. These data answer questions such as, “What programs does the
district provide for students at risk of not graduating?” or “How does the district communicate
major program or policy changes to the school community?” Combinations of two or more data
types may be necessary to address complex questions. A question, such as, “Are low-income
students who participate in after school programs more likely to perceive themselves as prepared
for college or career than non-participating students?” requires the examination of demographic
data, perception data, and process data. Once the focus questions for the data analysis
are determined, begin the needs assessment process. The process includes the following
steps: 1. Assemble several years’ data to address each of the focus questions. Examining
the data over time will help identify trends. 2. Before sharing data with the school community,
put the data in a form that will be easy to understand and use. This often means making
the data visual. Converting tables of test numbers into graphs, or converting paragraphs
of focus group notes into diagrams or charts may make the data more accessible, and will
encourage members of the school community to fully participate in the data analysis
process. 3. Develop clear processes for analyzing the data and recording results of the data
analysis. Guide participants to look for trends in the data over time and to look for similar
patterns across multiple data sources. Be systematic, starting with the big picture
of overall student achievement, and then examining different student groups and grade levels,
or different schools. Remember that the purpose of the data analysis is to identify areas
of strength and areas for improvement. Problem solving and choosing strategies and actions
will come later in the planning process. 4. To encourage active participation in the data
analysis process, divide participants into small groups. Provide each group a set of
questions to guide the data discussion, and use chart paper or electronically record data
observations. When the small group analysis is complete, have each group present their
most important findings. Document the findings, and note which observations seem important
to multiple groups. This process will help the school community prioritize the areas
identified for improvement. The needs assessment priorities will guide the planning team in
the next steps of the planning cycle as they develop concrete learning outcomes that define
what students will know, accomplish, and be able to do when they reach the academic improvement
targets. The priorities identified during the needs assessment will also guide the selection
of strategies with the potential to accomplish the desired student outcomes. To locate tools
and resources to help with data analysis and needs assessment, visit the QSF website. Explore
the QSF elements for Family and Community, Culture and Climate, and Equity to find suggested
practices to engage the various members of your school community. Additionally, review
the resources associated with this video, including a discussion guide that provides
ideas for using this video with your school community. Thank you for viewing this overview
of analyzing data and assessing local needs. We encourage you to use and share this resource
within your school and district community as you work to ensure that all your students
learn and thrive.

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