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Data Wise: A Step-by-Step Guide to Using Assessment Results to Improve Teaching and Learning

reviewed by Victoria L. Bernhardt - May 10, 2006

coverTitle: Data Wise: A Step-by-Step Guide to Using Assessment Results to Improve Teaching and Learning
Author(s): Boudett, Kathryn P., City, E.A., Murnane, R. J. (Eds.)
Publisher: Harvard University Press, Cambridge
ISBN: 1891792679, Pages: 212, Year: 2005
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Data Wise: A Step-by-Step Guide to Using Assessment Results to Improve Teaching and Learning, edited by Kathryn Parker Boudett, Elizabeth A. City, and Richard J. Murnane was published by Harvard Education Press in 2005. Data Wise was written to help education leaders learn how to analyze data in a manner that contributes to improved instruction and increased student learning. In addition to the three editors, contributors included three urban public school principals, a director of out-of-school programs in an urban public school, Harvard Graduate School of Education faculty members, including a statistician, an economist, an assessment scholar, and a public policy analyst. All of the authors have worked in or with urban schools, and most have extensive teaching experience. Some of the authors have personally experienced the issues that they are writing about in the book. As is stated in the Preface, What we share is a commitment to provide all children with a good education, and a belief that thoughtful, systematic, collaborative examination of student assessments can contribute to this goal. A central premise of the book is that it is important to examine a wide range of data. While an analysis of standardized test results is important, other types of evidence on students skills and knowledge are needed.

Each chapter of Data Wise is authored by two or three of the contributors and describes the choices and challenges faced by the case study schools and illustrates the messiness of applying the improvement process in practice. Interwoven throughout the chapters are vignettes from two case study schoolsone with a K-8 configuration and the other 912that help make the process real and understandable. Each chapter includes protocols, exercises, and/or templates to help others understand this work and how to do the work in their own setting.

The introduction provides an overview of the eight-step Data Wise Improvement Process, which is grouped into preparedness, inquiry, and action. The subsequent chapters look at each of the steps in detail. Even though the chapters equal the whole process, the book is written so each chapter can stand alone. Chapter 1, Organizing for Collaborative Work, describes how to establish data teams and take stock of existing data. The authors of Chapter 1 make the argument that doing the hard work of organizing staff to do the data analysis will pay off in the long run and result in building a data culture. The authors cite three important activities to support the creation of a data culture or culture of inquiry, and provide suggestions on how to do the work. These activities include:


Creating and guiding a data team


Enabling collaborative work among faculty


Planning productive meetings

Chapter 2, Building Assessment Literacy, defines assessment terms and issues that are critical to interpreting test results correctly. Creating a Data Overview, describes the tasks involved in creating a data overview, especially how to construct graphic displays that allow school facilities to readily identify patterns in the results of standardized assessments, and engage them in conversations about how to use the results. Chapter 4, Digging into Data, describes how to delve into student work in order to identify and understand a student learning problem. The chapter includes how to triangulate data and utilize multiple data sources. Examining Instruction, shows how to focus on instruction and student work to understand what current practice looks like and how it relates to effective practice for examining a student learning problem. Chapter 6, Developing an Action Plan, describes how to design an effective action plan using a problem-solving approach. Planning to Assess Progress, addresses designing and developing a process to assess whether students are learning more. Short term, medium term, and long-term assessments are covered. Chapter 8, Acting and Assessing, describes how to get an action plan implemented in classrooms and how to assess its implementation and effectiveness. Roles for the District Central Office, describes what school districts can do to support school-based educators efforts to make constructive use of student assessment results. At the end of the book are references and protocols for school leaders to use to begin the process.

With Data Wise, the authors have created an easy to read and understand book on how to transform data on student achievement into a plan of action to improve teaching and learning. While there are many different authors and probably just as many writing styles, the editors did a fantastic job of making sure the writing in each of the chapters blended and flowed so the book reads as if there was one writer.

Data Wise is practical and based on experiences in real schools; therefore, it achieves one of its goals of helping school leaders understand how to use student assessments to improve teaching and learning. School leaders should be very pleased to see what it would look like if they followed the whole process, which the authors show through the two case-study schools. Data Wise: A Step-by Step Guide to Using Assessment Results to Improve Teaching and Learning is a nice contribution to how to get assessment data used by those who are leading and teaching in our schools.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: May 10, 2006
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 12506, Date Accessed: 10/22/2021 10:42:52 PM

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About the Author
  • Victoria Bernhardt
    Education for the Future
    E-mail Author
    VICTORIA L. BERNHARDT is Executive Director, Education for the Future, Chico, California, a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to build the capacity of learning organizations to gather, analyze, and use data to continuously improve learning for all students. Dr. Bernhardt is the author of 11 highly acclaimed books on data analysis and the school portfolio, published by Eye on Education, Larchmont, New York. Her most recent publications are a series of 4 books that show what it would look like if elementary, middle, high schools, and school districts analyzed their data. Dr. Bernhardt is passionate about how data analysis can make the difference for school effectiveness, and ultimately reaching the learning needs of all students. Her website is http://eff.csuchico.edu.
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