DATA: MORE THAN JUST NUMBERS

Statistics, proportions, figures and visuals… we come across them on a daily basis. From data on how the economy is doing to political polls, they seem to be all around us! We are undeniably living in the era of data-ization. Although some data analyses could be passed as irrelevant or of little importance, when it comes to understanding and measuring student performance over time, targeting instruction and closing achievement gaps, data can be an excellent tool to have!

In my current role as data scientist for HCSC, when it comes to understanding and measuring student performance, it’s not sufficient to simply present scores on a spreadsheet. It is critical to also ask how that particular student, class and school performed throughout the school year as well, and quantify movement from term to term. Identifying, through descriptive statistics, that a student’s performance is dwindling or that they are not meeting expectations allows for proactive measures to help students improve performance. I like to think of data and assessment statistics like a thermometer. A thermometer won’t tell you that you have a fever; it will only tell you what your temperature is at that point in time. In order to properly diagnose and remedy, you have to continue to ask questions and find solutions until you have what you need to fix the problem.

What is most useful about being able to apply data analytics to primary education is in helping to close the achievement gap. Ensuring that all children are exceeding expectations is an excellent goal to have, but it’s also great to be able to provide additional guidance to students who require it. Having the proper mechanism to identify those students and initiate conversations with schools is part of my contribution to those efforts to help students succeed.

Carl M. Letamendi, PhD, MBA, Data Scientist

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