Until recently, when teachers at the Pennsville School District in New Jersey wanted to review their students' standardized test scores they faced a daunting task.
"We had all the district test data from the previous year printed out on reams and reams of fan-folded paper," said Jon Hall, the district's technology director. "The teachers would be told, 'Here are the test scores from last year; find your students and take a look.' As you can imagine, it was not a very efficient system."
Now, though, the 2,100-student district is replacing its paper-based data system with a Web-based data storage and reporting tool called Student Stats, from OnCourse Systems. Student Stats is a repository for virtually any student-related data, from state and benchmark test results to attendance and discipline records. It also enables teachers and administrators to access and analyze the data with an assortment of standard and customized reports.
"This is a huge efficiency gain," said Hall. "But it goes beyond simply relieving teachers of tedious paperwork. By putting data at their fingertips, it allows teachers to actually use the data to prepare and differentiate their instruction."
Hall said that the teachers who piloted Student Stats were particularly impressed by how easy it was to access the data. "The interface for the teacher is very straightforward," he said. "You select the report you want, then you select your class and the report pops up for your students." He added that teachers do not need to enter data into the program; the district's technology department takes care of all data entry.
Making the program even more useful, Hall said, is the ability to include hyperlinks to other student information. For instance, an English teacher viewing a class report on writing scores from the previous year's state test can click a link that opens a specific student's writing sample from that test.
"It's one thing to see that a student had a low writing score on a state test," Hall explained. "But if you can click a link and read that student's actual writing sample from the test you can see exactly how to differentiate instruction for that child."
Similarly, for students in special education programs, Student Stats can embed links to IEPs in class test score reports, so teachers can quickly see what kinds of accommodations and modifications they need to build into their instructional strategy. "It makes it very easy for teachers to reference that information when they're creating their lesson plans," Hall said.
While teachers use Student Stats to view data about their classes, administrators can use it to view test score and other data at the grade, school or district level. "We've also generated reports so an administrator can look at test data grouped by teacher, so it becomes a tool for accountability," Hall said.
And for district technology directors like Hall, Student Stats has proved to be a more flexible and affordable alternative to the kind of data warehousing and reporting packages that are more appropriate to large school districts. "We can design things as we want," he said. "The interface allows us to do that."
Any technology is effective only if it's used, and Hall said Student Stats is quickly passing that test. "Every time someone like me shows up in a classroom and says, 'We've got this really neat new thing for you,' there's a collective groan," he said. "But when we show teachers how this program works, you can see their eyes light up."
For more information about Student Stats please visit www.oncoursesystems.com.