Using Analytics to Support Students in the Midst of a Pandemic

Student Data

As schools re-open for the 2021-2022 school year, educators find themselves facing a myriad of challenges. From establishing health and safety guidelines for a safe reopening, to managing the ever-increasing concerns around the mental health of staff and students, to benchmarking student performance, schools are once again facing a school year unlike any other.

Like last school year, districts are reinventing themselves to meet the challenges ahead with creativity and care to ensure all students meet their goals in the classroom. Whether they’re establishing modified distance learning plans, developing intervention strategies, or finding new ways to re-engage learners, district leaders are focused on a speed to insight around four key questions:

  1. What are the current performance levels of each student?
  2. Based on the current performance level, what are our goals for student performance for the upcoming school year?
  3. How will we measure our performance during the year?
  4. What will we do to support students who struggle?

More and more, educators are using analytics to answer these questions and identify moments of success from last school year.

Here’s how:

1.  What are the current performance levels of each student?

Districts are analyzing last year’s attendance rates, course grades and even engagement in eLearning platforms like Google Classroom, Canvas or Schoology data to identify a critical list of students who may need additional resources to launch a successful start of the school year.

Along with previously mentioned classroom-level datasets, districts are reviewing benchmark assessment data like iReady, NWEA MAP, Star 360, PSAT/SAT and even state assessments.

This provides insight into key performance standards in math and reading, showing not only how students did at the end of 2021, but also informing where to go in 2022. In each instance, educators are looking to analytics that swiftly disaggregate the results so they can ensure equity and access for all students. Districts know that a bridge will need to be built from last year to this year, so reviewing the most recent benchmark assessments to understand what students know and can do can help to create a game plan for the upcoming school year — which is paramount to a successful 2022.

Figure 1 provides a sample quadrant analysis of NWEA MAP performance from fall to spring 2020-2021 in Reading/Language Arts, as shown in a dashboard created using Forecast5 Analytics’ 5Labs tool, powered by Frontline Education.

2. Based on the current performance level, what are your goals for student performance for the upcoming school year?

At the secondary level, preparing students for college and career remains as important as ever. Districts are looking at disaggregated analytics that can quickly show if high school students are on track to graduate. They are also creating Early Warning Indicators to combine a variety of data points (like attendance and grades) to see which students may be falling off track so principals and building leaders can proactively support each student and track performance during the school year. Districts are, once again, closely monitoring student enrollments in rigorous coursework like AP and Dual Credit to make sure that each and every student has access to content and instruction that prepares them for life after graduation.

Figure 2 displays a district Early Warning Indicator (EWI) as shown in a dashboard created using Forecast5 Analytics’ 5Labs tool, powered by Frontline Education. The graphs are based on the combination of the student’s attendance and number of D’s and F’s, a risk category.

3. How will you measure your performance during the year?

As assessment information on students may be limited from last year, it is important to establish reasonable targets for students to meet for the current school year. The first step to measuring student performance is identifying where the student is at, now. This can be done through the use of classroom assessments, standardized assessment or a combination of both.  Then, once the benchmark performance is in place, continue to monitor student progress throughout the year, to ensure that students are not only successful in the classroom through traditional or standards-based grades, but also meeting grade level expectations on standardized measures in reading and math.

4. What will you do to support students who struggle?

Supporting struggling students begins with a collaborative team, either across a grade level, content area or subject, identifying students needing support. Knowing, quickly, which students are not meeting the established performance expectations is critical. So often the RTI, MTSS or student support team spends a significant amount of time ‘crunching’ the numbers and very little time planning the action steps. Consider flipping that conversation and providing tools to your leadership teams that allows them to spend less time creating the data tables and more time acting upon them.

Real-world example

In one Illinois district, traditionally, the leadership team spent a significant amount of time combing through and trying to make sense of various departmental and course grade data to determine how many students were failing more than one class each grading period. Then, the students were to be connected to a targeted intervention. This data was not easy to pull into a report and share, so it took much longer to establish action steps that would help the staff support the students in a timely fashion. The team then developed automated custom dashboards that were disaggregated by counselor, dean, grade level, course and department, to quickly identify students that may need an intervention.

Concluding thoughts

While the challenges that exist are many, we have seen a remarkable sharing of best practices and ideas among clients and colleagues from around the country. Through virtual webinars, conferences, and the return of in-person professional development, it is truly inspirational to see the collaboration around key analytics that quickly support a child and the focus on equity to make sure all students receive an education that prepares them for their next step in life. From this experience, schools and educators will once again adapt, modify, and succeed in ensuring students meet with success, paving the way for the next generation of educators, leaders, and community members.

To make data-informed decisions about student outcomes, you need easy-to-use data analytics tools designed specifically for schools. Forecast5’s 5Lab consolidates disparate data sources into a single analytics environment, giving you in-depth, actionable insights to navigate our evolving education landscape and improve student achievement. Explore more here

Dr. Adam Cibulka

Dr. Cibulka is the Senior Manager for 5Lab with Forecast5 Analytics in Naperville. Prior to joining the Forecast5 team, Adam served in public education as a teacher, department head, assistant principal, and district level administrator. Most recently, Dr. Cibulka was the Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment at DuPage High School District 88, located in Addison, Illinois, where he was responsible for the assessment structures, curricular resources, development of new curriculum, management of Title grants, professional learning communities, teacher evaluation system, and staff development teams. Dr. Cibulka received a Bachelor’s Degree from Wheaton College in History/Social Science Secondary Education and a Master’s (MA) and Doctoral Degree (ED.D.) in Educational Administration from Northern Illinois University.