What is Data-Driven Instruction?

Data-Driven InstructionFebruary’s Education Committee Meeting was held Monday, the 24th. The big ticket item on the agenda was a discussion about Data and Student Achievement, and how the Octorara Area School District intends to use data to support student success.

Formative and Summative Data

Summative Data is the data we often talk about. It is PSSA and Keystone test outcomes. It is Graduation Rates. It is ACT and SAT scores. This data can be described as, “the score at the end of the game.”

Summative Data are the “end of course/year evaluations.” This data doesn’t help you to achieve victory. It shows what has been accomplished. Because of this, the information is not “actionable.” In essence, a coach can’t improve game play if all he/she has to work with is the final score.

Formative Data is day to day information that can be continuously evaluated, allowing for adjustments to be made. It is information educators collect, organize, and analyze during instructional time… during lessons, from quizzes, through homework, and other instructional activities.

Formative Data is immediately actionable. Teachers can identify if there is a problem with a student, or group of students, and make adjustments to improve learning.

Wait, what?

If you are anything like me, you may be asking the question, “How is this new and innovative?” During the Education Committee, I asked that very thing. Teachers have always been giving quizzes and assigning homework. How does assigning a fancy name to assignment grades improve academic performance?

The change is the intended use of the data. Common sense would tell us that if a student, or a group of students, are doing poor on tests and quizzes, that it would identify a problem and adjustments would be made. Unfortunately, that may not be the case.


Many parents may instinctively know this, but it was a little off-putting to hear Dr. Newcome make the statement that grades on a report card are not a good indicator of what a child has learned in class. We all know that one child who does well on tests, but is getting a “D” because he/she isn’t turning in homework assignments. You may also know a student that seems to be getting good grades, but then flops the Keystones or SATs.

One example given was homework. Some teachers assign homework just to assign homework. The assignments are used for reasons other than to evaluate learning and adjust instruction.

A quiz could be given for the sole reason of having a certain number of grades in a grade book. If 50% of the class fail, the teacher may feel it is more important to keep the curriculum moving forward, rather than stopping to evaluate the issue.

The push at the District level is for teachers to be intentional… actively evaluating learning and making instructional adjustments as needed to improve.


Currently, implementation is much more pervasive in the lower grades than at the Jr/Sr High School. Some of that has to do with teachers in the lower grades being more willing to embrace Data-Driven Instruction. Some of it also has to do with the lower grades having more of an ability to be collaborative.

The current goals for the District include: (1) greater Data-Driven Instruction implementation at the Jr/Sr High School, (2) more uniform data collection and sharing between each of the individual schools, and (3) acquiring a “data warehouse” that has the ability to import data from all sources, reducing manual entry and increasing productive use of information.


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