Smarter School Spending

Smarter School Spending - 1C - Analyze Current Levels of Student Learning

Collecting Performance Data

Districts should collect data from a variety of sources in order to provide a well-rounded perspective on performance. One key data source is student performance on common assessments

Summative assessments, which review what a student has learned over the course of a year, are the most important assessments for budgeting and planning. Other forms of data beyond summative assessments are needed to provide a comprehensive perspective on the district’s progress, including benchmark and short-cycle/formative assessments.

Districts should collect data from student assessments (both summative and short-cycle/ formative) and other sources in order to establish a well-rounded perspective on student performance. All data elements collected should, to the extent possible, conform to the following criteria:

  • Relevance:
    The data provide relevant information for helping determine the district’s progress in meeting its goals.
  • Consistency:
    The data is collected in a matter that allows valid year-to-year comparisons
  • Ability to be disaggregated:
    The data can be broken down to reveal important socioeconomic characteristics of various student groups (e.g., free and reduced lunch, English Language Learners) and can also be broken down by school level (e.g., high school, middle school, grade school), school site, and grade level.

Measuring Student Performance

The most critical aspects of student performance to measure with achievement testing are math and English Language Arts (ELA) assessment data conducted at multiple grade levels. Districts may also choose to collect data on other areas/subjects, in addition to selecting the type of student performance measure to use. Regardless of which measurement type is selected, the district’s complete measurement system should provide the following perspectives on student performance:

  • Comparison against a standard of proficiency.
    Districts should assess achievement relative to an established standard of proficiency. (These types of measures are often known as “proficiency” measures or sometimes “status” or “attainment” measures.) Measures of proficiency assess whether students have achieved an established level of mastery of a particular subject relative to a specific standard.
  • Relative improvement.
    Districts should assess achievement of students at the end of the year relative to their performance at the beginning of the year. Measuring relative achievement provides insight into learning gains that might be obscured when measuring improvement against a standard of proficiency.
  • Changes over multiple years
    Districts should examine achievement over multiple years. Multi-year trends give a more complete perspective on performance because they more clearly show the direction of change in performance. Districts do not always improve performance in a linear fashion.


  • Level 1: Develop multi-year comparisons against standards of proficiency account for major sub-groups for all core subjects. Begin to foster a climate and culture of trust for effective use of data. Consider different levels of proficiency, not just "pass/fail"
  • Level 2: Use measures of academic growth in the most essential areas of student achievement (e.g., third grade reading). Also, analyze the district's progress on the most critical of the essential supports for student achievement (e.g., school climate)
  • Level 3: Look more comprehensively at the essential supports for student achievement

Quick Wins

•Quick Win: What is the district trying to answer (i.e. sub-par achievement of key student population)? And agreement on this question.

•Why important? Define a problem before seeking solution - sets target for what district is trying to answer.

•How does this help district control/own process? Provides clarity on the direction of the analysis.


Best Practice - 1C - Analyze the Current Levels of Student Learning

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