Sunday, September 29, 2013

Data Analysis

“Schools and school districts are under intense pressure to improve. With both limited resources and limited time to develop processes that allow them to move steadily upward, schools must use data to ensure that their improvement is effective and continuous.”(Berhardt, V.L., 2004)

            Statistical evidence is a reliable form of reference for determining effectiveness in any organization. However, in education, data and empirical information have not always been the go to when determining the effectiveness in schools. Historical information, personal preference, and individual judgments are fading away as a basis for decision making in schools (Herman & Gribbons, 2001). With the increasing need for student achievement, a more technical and reliable avenue must be used to optimize and improve learning. In the past few years we have seen many changes in educational standards, not only for our state, but also for the nation. NCLB has made drastic alterations to how teachers and students need to conduct themselves when it comes to the information learned on every grade level. The emphasis put on standardized testing scores has also called for an alternative way of analyzing teaching practices. This is why the need and use for data analysis has become priority for most school districts.  Nation wide, there are different types of data now being used to assess learning, teacher effectiveness, and appropriate curriculums for each grade level. There is an important amount of information that can be attained from data analysis but many educational professionals are concerned with what information is being compiled along with how it is used.
            Some of the advantages to using data analysis are to show the level of student learning, level of retention between grade levels, impact of programs being implemented, effectiveness of teaching styles, and determining whether the level of education is up to par with students needs (Bernhardt, 2004).  The advantages of utilizing data do not come without criticism or concern.  The majority of concern about data analysis comes from the emphasis on statewide testing. Standardized testing results yield the bulk of the data used to critique teachers and the schools that they work in. Unfortunately, it seems that many of these concerns are validated. Formative assessments are taking place in schools and are also an indicator of learning, however, summative assessments are the primary reference for assessing student achievement. This poses many concerns for educational professionals. It seems as if something is being taken away from daily and individual teaching because everyone must show proficiency in subjects on standardized testing. Research has shown that standardized tests may not be the best indicator of learning, but students and teachers are still being finely critiqued on how well they perform. There are opposing views about changes made to education in recent years. However, the best thing to do for students is to clearly define the best ways to optimize their education.
            What must be made clear is that student achievement data is not the only form of data in which can greatly assist schools. Demographic, Perceptional and School process data are all important forms of information that can and should be used to improve the mechanics of a school. Demographic data can tell us more about the students, teachers, and how both groups may be properly matched. It can give the school leaders an idea of who the student body is and who may be the best fit for conveying their education. Demographics are also the root of telling how well the school is meeting the needs of students.  To examine a school in a different light, perceptional data can be used to receive more personal information from staff, students, and the community. Perceptual data can give everyone a voice, which is equally important in meeting the needs of the students. It not only tells us how the students feel, but how the staff and community feel about the education and educational environment. Lastly, School process data is a beneficial way of attaining more specific data about the precise workings of a school. School process data tells more about the specific curriculum, instruction, and assessment strategies used by teachers. This data can show administration what the teachers are doing and how they are using educational components to yield results (good or bad)
            The use of data for assessing aspects of education can be incredibly beneficial, however schools must be careful how they are using the information. The real question here is not why are we using data analysis but how we can use the information to optimize learning in schools. Is the information that is being attained being used properly, or is it being used to critique staff/ teachers on subjects and tests that are not part of their curriculum? There has obviously been both support and criticism from the increase in data based decision making in schools. Some criticism may come from the lack of a clear set of guidelines for how schools should use the information. The information gathered should be used to assess how well any given school is doing to meet the educational needs of the students. Much of the information obtained can display whether or not the curriculum and or teaching practices are working. If not, it will show what may need to be altered for improvement. If used properly, the information can be used to optimize learning as well as to increase the proficiency and skills of everyone involved, students, teachers and staff included.

Below I have included a link for more information on how NJ is using data analysis in schools:


Bernhardt, V. (2004). Continuous Improvement: It takes more than test scores. ACSA Leadership , 16-19.
Herman, J. & Gribbons, B. (2001). Lessons learned in using data to support school inquiry and continuous improvement: Final report to the Stuart Foundation. CSE Technical Reprt 535 .

NJ Tenure Reform

                          New Jersey Tenure Reform

      The federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 contained a mandate requiring that all classrooms be staffed with a “highly qualified teacher.” As a result of this act, a great deal of political and scholarly attention has been given to teacher quality. Over the past decade, focus has been on such issues as: teacher recruitment, preparation, professional development, compensation/merit pay, and teacher tenure! Wow! 
      All of these issues have been at the center of discussion for educational reform, but none as highly controversial and publicized as teacher tenure.  
      Teacher tenure was created during the early part of the 20th century to establish a set of guidelines to protect teachers from the random, unfair, and often discriminatory dismissal practices that were common in local schools at that time. As a result of tenure laws, teachers could no longer be disciplined or fired without just cause or due process and they were often provided with job security for life. (Center for American Progress, Ringing the Bell for K-12 Teacher Tenure Reform,2011)
      But times have changed! Today, concerns about the effect on student outcomes along with budgetary constraints, have forced the need to discuss and reevaluate the tenure system.
      As a result, leaders in a handful of states and districts have already begun making changes to their tenure systems with their goal of increasing student learning. Many changes are in the works as states are pushing to renovate their tenure protections and increase the rigors of their tenure-granting process.
      New Jersey, under the direction of Governor Chris Christie, was a key leader in this process. After nearly two years of consistent advocacy and demands for real education reforms, the governor along with the bipartisan support of members of the legislature, education reform advocates, and stakeholder groups created the first extensive reform of New Jersey’s tenure law in over 100 years. “It is a sweeping overhaul of the oldest tenure law in the nation.”(
      On August 6, 2012 Governor Christie today signed the Teacher Effectiveness and Accountability for the Children of New Jersey (TEACHNJ) Act. The legislation transformed the existing tenure system. The new plan provides clear and powerful tools to identify effective and ineffective teachers.  It strengthens the support available to help all teachers improve and develop themselves professionally  and, for the first time, ties the achievement, preservation, and loss of tenure to a teacher’s effectiveness in the classroom.
     All new educators will be provided a year of mentoring. It will take new teachers four years instead of three to attain tenure and it will only be awarded after receiving two years of effective or highly-effective ratings. Similarly, the process of revoking teachers’ tenure will automatically occur after receiving two consecutive years without an effective or highly-effective rating. The exception to this rule is in cases where an educator has demonstrated modest improvement during that span. At that time they may be granted an additional year to achieve an effective rating. These provisions will help ensure that only those teachers, who are consistently demonstrating success in educating and providing for our students, remain in the classroom. Teachers will be evaluated using a student achievement rubric and an approved teacher practice instrument (Danielson, Marzano) These evaluations will be based on an individual’s job description, professional standards, the use of multiple measures of student progress and multiple data sources. ( – Achieve NJ)
     Teacher tenure is not transferrable from one district to another. “Any employee beginning employment in a new district after the effective date of the new law must earn tenure under its requirements, even if that employee was previously tenured in another district under the requirements of the old law” (NJEA, 2012). Seniority rights, too, have been maintained in the new law.
     The law does dramatically reduce the time and cost it takes to remove educators who are repeatedly ineffective. Formerly, the process to remove a teacher could take several years and cost more than $100,000, providing a disincentive for districts to bring tenure charges against ineffective teachers. Over the past ten years, less than 20 teachers in New Jersey have lost tenure after charges of “inefficiency.” Under the new system, the time would be limited to 105 days from the time the written tenure charges are received by the Commissioner and is capped at $7,500 per case – which will be paid by the state. ( The rights to maintain due process still remain in effect.
     Additionally, the law requires that support be provided to help all educators improve. This will occur through the use of more meaningful evaluation systems and tying the results of these evaluations directly to professional development. In addition to mandating mentoring in a teacher’s first year, the new evaluation systems will provide more meaningful feedback and measures of what matters most – how well students are actually performing. Professional development will be tied to teacher evaluations.  Corrective action plans will be mandatory when a teacher is rated ineffective or partially ineffective – providing the opportunity for improvement before tenure charges are brought about for ineffectiveness.
     Although, it seems as if the TEACH NJ Act will create far-reaching, positive changes for our students and our schools, this legislation, of course, has drawn strong criticism and concern from many. Besides those who say the new laws will stigmatize teachers, and push effective teachers out of the profession, there are concerns over: how principals and administrators will find the time to conduct, as required, so many formal evaluations; how districts will equally and fairly integrate student growth data into evaluations of staff members who don't have standardized tests in their subjects; how one can fairly put total responsibility of student progress onto the teacher when so many factors in a student’s life may attribute to their performance; how teachers can be the only one accountable for a student’s growth when the student’s themselves and/or their parents are equal partners in the learning process; how a district can incorporate standardized test scores into teacher evaluations when those test scores are not released by the DOE until the late summer but final summative annual evaluations are due in early summer; how can these measures be consistent state-wide when districts are using different measures /rubrics of evaluation (Marzano, Danielsen).
     Stay tuned as New Jersey schools fully implement this new tenure legislation this school year. Even though there is a great deal of optimism in regards to this new system, there is sure to be some snafus along the way. However, one thing is for certain, “The main purposes for which K–12 tenure was created are less compelling today, and the costs of tenure as we know it to children and our national economy are great.” (Center for American Progress –Ringing the Bell for K-12 Teacher Tenure Reform) Reform of some type was inevitable, and as former AFT president, Sandra Feldman stated, “Even one incompetent teacher is too much for the children she teaches, the parents she faces, the members who get her students in subsequent grades… and frankly, for the good of our union.” (Center for American Progress –Ringing the Bell for K-12 Teacher Tenure Reform)

Teacher Tenure Reform: Applying Lessons from the Civil Service and Higher Education

Achieve NJ -

Governor Chris Christie Signs Revolutionary Bipartisan Tenure Reform Legislation Into Law
(2012,August 06). 
Retrieved from:

NJEA (2012, September) The New Tenure Law
Retrieved from:

Center for American Progress- Ringing the Bell for K-12 Teacher Reform (February 2011)