More Than Test Scores: How One School’s Culture of Data Honors All Learners

Topics: Assessment and Accountability, Vision and Culture

According to Principal David Prinstein, the culture of data at Windsor Locks Middle School in Windsor Locks, Connecticut, is about using “everyday data to make the best possible decision.”

“School collect enormous streams of data: standardized data, interim assessment data, attendance, IEPs, proficiency testing data,” says Prinstein. For Prinstein and his colleagues, it was critical to bring that data together with observations and survey data from students, parents and educators to create as complete a picture of a learner as possible. “We’re trying to put faces and feelings and abilities into how we think about data – kids are three-dimensional. They’re not just a test score.”

During professional development sessions this past summer, Prinstein distributed data binders to each of his staff members with as much relevant data as possible about each one of their students. These data binders are special because:

  • They’re organized in a way that helps teachers use them in planning, instruction and conferencing, allowing for teachers to target content to specific students or groups of students
  • They include intentional blank space in the back for teachers to record their own observations on each student
  • They’re transparent for students, inviting them into the process of understanding where they are as a learner and where they’re headed next

“Our hope is that when our teachers plan for the year, they are planning for specific students or groups of students so that planning is meaningful,” Prinstein says, honoring not only what the data can tell an educator about each student, but also how it is augmented by relationship-building in the classroom. “We know our kids best. We know our town and community best – there’s a misconception out there that data has to be numerical. But observational data, trends, anecdotes, communication, these all define a school and its culture. We prioritize all these other streams of data just as we do test scores.”

And there’s a place for everything in the data binder, providing each teacher with a robust tool to better plan and deliver instruction that’s meaningful for learners. And for Prinstein, these binders are just as valuable for students as they are for educators.

“Kids should have this self-knowledge about what they can and can’t do yet,” says Prinstein. “What they struggle with and what they’re successful with, so they can set meaningful goals that they’re working on in real-time.”

Data is being used in every profession across the globe to expedite services, to increase product effectiveness, to predict consumer desire, and more. Abbie Forbus and Drake Bryan discuss some of the ways data is used in personalized, competency-based learning.