You’ve Collected Your School’s Assessment Data. Now What?

A Guide to Assessment Data for K-12 Education Leaders

It’s a scenario you have probably experienced in your daily life as an educator—your school has just wrapped up end-of-year assessments, and you’ve received a massive set of student results. 

Beyond sharing the results with students and their parents, what do you do with this information? How can you take a large amount of data and break it down meaningfully to understand individual, class, and schoolwide performance? How can you evaluate performance against institutional goals? How can you identify schoolwide concerns or potential students who need extra support?

Answering these questions can seem overwhelming, but by following the right steps and using the right tools, school leaders and educators can get a clearer view of their schools’ performance—and ultimately use that information to support student growth. 

At ERB, we want to help you not only collect data from assessments and other measurement tools but also analyze and interpret those data to inform your decision-making. So, where do you start?

Steps to Take After Collecting Your School’s Assessment Data

While the tips and insights below are mostly applicable to independent and private school educators as well as ERB member schools, any educator looking for a deeper dive into analyzing assessment data can find them useful.

1. Share access to the data.

In many schools, access to testing data is limited to a few administrators or even one designated individual tasked with parsing results and pulling out key insights. But siloing data in this way can lead to missed opportunities. 

With widespread access to assessment data, your school’s teachers, for example, might recognize that their instruction is lacking in one particular area or use assessment results to better understand where and why a specific student is struggling. Administrators may note that scores in certain subjects have dropped or even recognize testing disparities across racial, gender, or socioeconomic groups.

If your school administers surveys or inventories to measure students’ social and emotional skills and well-being in the classroom (like the assessments and measures included in ERB’s Whole Child Solution), counselors and learning specialists can help you understand how your school’s culture is impacting student learning.  

Communicating the rationale for using assessment data

Your school likely has its own set of goals—from the academic, like increasing rigor in the mathematics curriculum, to those related to school culture, like improving student well-being and increasing levels of diversity. Assessments can help measure progress toward those goals. 

To make the most of these indicators, stakeholders across the institution need to understand how these metrics relate to institutional objectives and how they can inform decision-making. Clear communication about why you chose specific assessments and how you will use the results is vital.

“We want them to understand that data can open up new insights, help answer existing and inspire new questions, and inform how they’re trying to achieve their goals,” says Kelly Bornmann, Senior Director of Educational Services at ERB.

Ensuring all stakeholders know how to use the data

Since every member of a school’s team brings a different level of data fluency, you can share best practices for making sense of assessment data and ensure everyone has at least a baseline level of knowledge. 

You can also ensure internal stakeholders have access to external tools to help simplify this process and remove the need for data analytics expertise. For instance, ERB offers educators the ability to access and create customized reports tailored to their specific use cases and needs through its data reporting platform, 360 Access. Educators can look at the results of a specific assessment at the school, class, or individual level or view results for a particular student or group of students. 

Once your team members have access to these tools and the basic training needed to understand results, they can quickly get the information they need without digging through raw data.

Screenshot from the ERB 360 Access data reporting platform

2. Analyze and interpret the data.

In a vacuum, assessment data offer little value. Only when these data are compared to meaningful norms, standards, and historical data can you use them to guide decision-making. 

In 360 Access, you can benchmark against independent school norms and national norms. You can also filter data by choosing students, classes, subtests, and testing seasons to analyze. That makes it easy to immediately identify trends, learning gaps, and differences between groups. The Head of School Report tool, offered by ERB for school leadership, additionally includes student growth percentiles, which track students’ growth compared with their past results and typical student performance. 

Sample graphics from the ERB Head of School Report tool

3. Communicate the key findings.

“If you are going to invest the time and money to conduct an assessment and require your students to put forth their best effort, you owe it to the entire school community to debrief on the results,” says Glenn Milewski, Chief Program Officer at ERB. 

Ideally, educators will get an interpretive summary of results across multiple academic areas—including points of distinction and topics for internal review and improvement—that they can use to guide conversations with stakeholders at all levels. This is a need ERB recognized in creating its Head of School Report.

Sharing key takeaways with educators can help drive collaboration and engagement around academic and non-academic goals. For example, if a student well-being survey identifies low academic engagement, the school’s faculty and staff might work together to develop a solution.

“If you are going to invest the time and money to conduct an assessment and require your students to put forth their best effort, you owe it to the entire school community to debrief on the results.”

Glenn Milewski, Chief Program Officer, ERB

Independent school leaders may also share assessment data with their Board of Trustees to demonstrate progress against key targets.

4. Use the data.

Once everyone has the same knowledge base, it’s far easier to work together effectively to decide what short- and long-term actions to take in response to data insights. Potential applications of assessment data include the following.

Ways to Use Assessment Data in Your School

1. Inform your instruction and curricular planning
2. Guide certain decisions for effective resource allocation
3. Gather insights to help inform strategic planning
4. Incorporate key points into marketing collateral for your school
5. Leverage in reports to families and the broader school community

Data-informed instruction

By analyzing data at the grade, class, and student levels, educators and administrators can identify specific areas where students may be struggling and adjust their curriculum and instruction. For example, if an English teacher sees that their students’ reading scores on inference lag behind their scores on analysis, they could adjust their lesson plans to spend more time on deeper aspects of reading comprehension.

Effective resource allocation

Insights from assessments can also be useful data points as you make decisions about how to allocate your budget for the most impact.

For example, these data can contribute to decisions about reducing class sizes, putting additional funding toward one-on-one tutoring, or providing professional development support to teachers. It may also help you to identify where to focus time and money on efforts that support students’ personal growth and well-being. 

Long-term planning

In addition to short-term funding decisions, assessment data can help independent and private school leaders inform decisions related to strategic planning.

Suppose a school’s ERB data from the Check-In Survey on student well-being show that your students’ sense of belonging is declining overall. In that situation, you might recognize a need to invest time and resources in building out extracurricular activities and athletic offerings, as well as professional development focused on building caring and supportive communities. By having the same measures year-over-year, you can evaluate whether these changes are having the desired impact.

Since the ERB Head of School Report includes benchmarking against norm groups, the analysis makes it easier to tell whether the trends you see indicate a school-specific issue or a broader cultural trend (like the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic). Once you have identified a significant trend in your school, you can take targeted action, track the effects of your actions, and adjust course as needed.

Recruitment and marketing

Assessment data can be a great marketing asset for independent and private schools. Look at your reports to identify trends like strengths in specific subject areas or high average year-over-year improvement, and share those data in your marketing materials and with potential applicants. You can use this information to promote areas of excellence to prospective families.

Family and community engagement

Students’ families want to know how the school is performing and how their student is progressing. Sharing reports on your school’s overall performance can help leaders keep families and communities engaged and excited about their school’s progress, while student-level reports help educators have productive, fact-based conversations about each student’s strengths and any areas of concern. 

[RELATED: Tips for Communicating with Families About Student Assessment Results]

Make Assessment Data Work for You

Assessment data have much to offer, but the time and resources required to analyze and apply the data manually can be prohibitive. ERB’s Head of School Report and other tools available in the 360 Access data reporting platform simplify the process, highlighting key trends to allow school leaders to focus on the areas and interventions that will have the most significant impacts on their school and students.

Learn more about ERB’s data analysis and interpretation tools including the Head of School Report and Family Report, as well as the 360 Access data reporting platform.

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