Data mining test scores

New systems can be customized to analyze performance by class, teacher and student. Systems can match student errors with skills tested, analyze class-wide weaknesses, and allow for regrouping based on mastery.
Written by ZDNET Editors, Contributor

School districts are becoming more reliant on testing, but the data collected is only as good as the analysis they receive. Some Texas schools are finding that new high-tech data processing has ramifications beyond just the yearly tests, but they can also tailor the results to boost students skills, reports the Dallas News.

"Schools can analyze student performance today in ways they couldn't have dreamed of a couple of years ago," said Tim Magner, the department's director of education technology. "More importantly, these systems often allow them to analyze data in real time, so they can solve problems as soon as they arise."

Aside form keeping attendance and grades in one place, new data storage and data analysis systems can be customized for each classroom and student. By matching student errors with skills tested, the systems show who knows what. Systems can also spot classwide weaknesses, so teachers know when they are underteaching or misteaching particular topics.

There is always the danger of teachers teaching to the test. But, Kathy Hargrove, associate dean of the school of education at Southern Methodist University remarked, "It would make things much more efficient than having whole-class instruction. You can group and regroup" students according to what they have mastered.

Data-management systems are only as good as the tests they analyze, and tests should be used as a tool to make teachers more efficient in identifying weaknesses. But the use of data-management systems tailored for schools has been growing. Before computers, it would take a teacher - calculator and graph paper in hand - several weekends to complete.

"We're working now to bring our system into individual classrooms, so that teachers can view all the data for the kids in their classes. Teachers should have immediate access to benchmark tests. As time goes by ... and we transfer more data from our old Microsoft storage programs to our new Oracle system, the teachers will be able to see more and more."said Bob Mendro, assistant superintendent for research and evaluation.
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