Sunday, October 4, 2015

DATA Talks: Defining and Demystifyng DATA

Welcome to "DATA Talks!"  This  will be an ongoing series designed to answer questions about DATA!  Future posts will focus on where to find data, disaggregating data, tools for collecting data, identifying goals based on data, writing an action plan, and more. Feel free email me with questions or ideas for future "DATA Talks."

Before we begin, I am very interested in researching how well School Counselors have been prepared to use data in their school counseling programs.  If you would, please take a few minutes and answer the 9 question survey linked below.  Your participation would greatly appreciated and I will be sharing our results in a future "DATA Talks" post.
School Counselor Training, the ASCA Model, and the Use of Data survey.

First, let me say I am not an expert, not at all.  I'm just someone who finally has an understanding of  DATA and an eagerness to share what I have learned.  Dr. Trish Hatch and her book The Use of Data in School Counseling  have been the primary influence in my understanding of data and its usage. Hearing her in person and reading her book have compelled me to learn all I can about the use of data.  If you do not own this book, I strongly urge you to spend the $25 to buy it.  It is a "must have" for every School Counselor's library.

We hear this word thrown around a lot.  We know we need to do something with it, but are not really sure what. A number of years ago in my district, we were given a form called the MEASURE  and told to use data to show our effectiveness.  But, to be perfectly honest, until a year ago, I DID NOT HAVE A CLUE how to do that.  NOT ONE BIT!  But as many of us do, I faked it.  Not the data, I used real data, but it was the wrong data and I didn't know and neither did anyone else.  Because no one I knew had any idea about how or where to gather and use the right the data.  Nope, no clue.   I don't know what my other  30+ colleagues did because we never talked about it.  Talk about a conspiracy of silence!  We used that form for probably 4 years. It really is a pretty good tool for measuring program effectiveness, but not if you don't understand data.  So, during those years I continued to dutifully fill in all the boxes, without any real idea about what I should have been doing. And sadly, without making any real change in my school counseling program.

"DATA" Defined and Demystified
Let's start with some basic definitions.  When people throw around the word DATA it can have many different meanings, however, it is used as if there were only one.  In order to understand those meanings, you must understand the context in which the word DATA is being used.  There is school generated data and School Counselor generated data, achievement data and achievement-related data.  Then there is process, perception, outcome and competency data. Unfortunately, most people do not use a descriptor when talking about DATA, they just say DATA.  And unless you have an understanding of the various contexts it can all seem quite confusing.

School generated data: data automatically generated by the school such as reports regarding attendance and tardies, discipline, suspensions, report card grades, conduct grades, "at-risk" students, climate surveys, standardized test scores, GPA, changes in achievement levels, retention rates, drop out rates,etc. 
School generated data can be divided into 2 parts, achievement data and achievement-related data.  School Counselors need to stick with achievement-related data.

Achievement data:  Data that is used to measure the progress of students and the success of a school. It can impact school grades, funding, administrative and teacher/counselor employment. These are things like standardized test scores, graduation rates, ACT/SAT scores, drop-out rate, GPA, changes in achievement levels, retention rates, pass rates for HS exit exams, etc. 
It is impossible to show how School Counselors directly impact these types of data.

Achievement-related data:  (Listen up Counselor Friends! This is for us!)
The data elements that impact student achievement. When students attend school, behave, do HW and take rigorous classes they perform better in school which in turn will show improvement in achievement.  Achievement related data are things such as discipline referrals, attendance and tardies, report card grades, conduct grades, "at -risk" students, and climate surveys.

All of these are elements that can be directly impacted by the services of the School Counselor.
Achievement-related data is your starting point.  This is the data you want to analyze for patterns, deficits and needs to help inform your program goals. Your school may have other data they generate that you may wish to reference like ethnicity, gender, and ESE student data. This will be helpful when disaggregating  your data, but that is something we will cover in another post.

School Counselor generated data: data a School Counselor generates from pre and post tests or surveys for assessing student perceptions following lessons or groups.   Also, parent, teacher, and student needs assessments for informing school counseling program goals.

More DATA terms
Three more data terms you have probably heard are process, perception and outcome data. I used to always get these three mixed up!

Process data  think "just the facts."  This tells what the School Counselor did and for whom.  It is proof an event occurred.  Process data tells the who, what, when, where, and how.

September: 37 classroom lessons, 600 students in  K-5 for 45 minutes each to introduce the role of the School Counselor
September: 72 students, 10 small groups of 6-8 students each for one 30 minute  Meet and Greet to provide new student orientation
April: 18  8th grade homerooms lessons for 40 minutes each to 275 students to discuss registration for high school

Perception data measures how students attitudes, knowledge and skills are different as a result of your lesson or group.  Have beliefs changed, students learned a skill, or their  knowledge increased?  This is  all about what the students have learned.  Hatch tell us to shift the words around to remember to "ASK,"  that is measure what students learned as a result of an activity.  By using pre/post tests, surveys, exit tickets, role play,etc. you can assess what students have learned from your time together.

Before class 84% of students believed a single incident of name calling was bullying
after the lesson 12% believed a single incident of name calling was bullying.
Before class 20% of students believed studying with the TV and music on was ineffective, after class this belief increased to 98%.

Skill attainment ( Competency data)
90% of 5th graders could role play 2 Upstander techniques for handling a bully
100% of 7th graders completed a career interest inventory

Before class 17% of students knew the difference in bullying and conflict, after 89% knew the difference.
Before a series of group sessions 5% of 7th grade girls knew 3 ways to reduce drama with friends, after the sessions this knowledge increased to 98%.

Results data   This is the  proof a class or intervention worked or didn't work. It is the data that shows whether their is a change in student behavior.  This is the data that shows how students are different because of what School Counselors do.

Bullying incidences were reduced by 10% from Q1 to Q2
Attendance of Hispanic males improved by 24%
D's and F's by 6th grade students were reduced by 37%

Is the term DATA making more sense now?  Do you have a better understanding of the context  in which you have been heard it used?  I hope this little "DATA Talk has helped."  Feel free to share questions, comments, or suggestions for future "DATA Talks."


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