I have been doing a fair bit of thinking about data and data presentation over the past term.  After my blog post about the way we are graphing achievement at Outram I have spent quite a bit of time bouncing ideas around with a man from NZCER about how to get Excel to do this for us.  Graeme has spent considerably longer getting all the coding etc that sits behind it all to work too – he is my hero!  Frustratingly we seem to have hit the limits of what Excel will do just before it achieves what I am looking for … but I am trying to find someone with the particular knowledge needed to go the final step – Visual Basic programming in Excel I believe. It has ended up way more complex than I realised to do things like change colours of lines, because Excel has expectations of what you are doing and we are doing something just a wee bit different.

Coincidentally I have just emailed a colleague who is presenting a talk on “using data to inform changes in instructional practice in classrooms” my thinking and the things we are doing at school:

Hi Mark
you will have seen my blog post on presenting data …. this file is where things are at at the moment in doing this in Excel

as you can see a way to go at the moment …. but the theory is showing the ‘value added’ by the school/teacher …which is where I am coming too with respect to your topic. I believe we have to show what difference WE make v’s maturation/being alive and present in a classroom (John Hatties 0.4 effect size – article attached if you are not familiar with his work. Marzano has a similarly informative list of pedagogocal practices I have found useful to share with staff). The key thing too with this model is keeping the individual data as well as showing the collective/aggregated. Loosing sight of individuals in what we do with achievement information (or conversely not aggregating the individual in any way) is where we have missed what I believe is the point of tracking achievement in schools.

To that end the next project is to take the same data and put in best fit lines for last data collection point and this one and compare the two lines. The (hopefully) gap between them is the difference that has been made. The statistical trick I am keen to find how to do now is to take out the 0.4 with the click of a checkbox to show the teacher/learning effect. I would love to be able to do this with the data in the attached file too so as to flatten out the trajectory of learning by 0.4 for each child and what you would have left is the teacher effect. May be a bit scary if the lines actually go down, does that mean we are actually harming the kids by having them at school?

I am also tracking cohorts by curriculum area as they move through the school – this time by level using the sheet attached [tracks a cohort over successive years in the same curriculum area with respect to expectation]

What I am hoping to see is the minus groups pulled up and the at and above groups increasing. We put names in all but the at group so we can track individuals.

I believe we have a good system evolving and once we get the Excel quirks sorted so as to be able to do this electronically things will be even better. The ultimate aim is to get our Student Management System – which at the moment is hopeless – to do all this for us.

Achievement data has to be able to drive pedagogy for teachers. I am finding I don’t need to do a lot of whole staff/structured reflection based on the sort of data collection I showed in the blog post – teachers are already doing it because the presentation is so intuitive. So much more useful than an above-at-below expectation bar graph that I believe ultimately shows very little. It misses the good kid who is cruising or the struggler who is actually making fantastic progress.

Anyway ….this is my bandwaggon of the moment, so good timing if it is useful to you. I believe improving the quality of our presentation – and hence analysis down to the individual student level – of achievement information will make a big difference to both our ability to target and refine our classroom programmes and improve pedagogy. It is fundamental to what our new curriculum document describes as ‘teaching as Inquiry’.

I have heaps of readings, thinking and playing with this stuff if it is of ANY use at all.


As always I am keen to bounce the ideas around and try and ‘break’ them, and find any holes in the logic – so thats what the comments are for people!

I also believe that if we have the ability to do the kinds of things I am wanting we negate the need for any sort of national testing or comparison in league tables. We CAN effectively show that we ARE making a difference to childrens learning at both the individual and collective level.  We can show where children came from and where they got to – the difference in the middle is the effect we have had.  Particularly if you can correct for simple maturation.

Simply end-point testing doesn’t do this.  People think it does but they are wrong. Our Minister believes this and she is wrong too.  You have to know where children come into a school/class and where they go out.  It is the difference between the two that is the indicator of school quality not simply how high the achievement level in the final test is.

4 Responses to “More on Data Presentation”
  1. Greg,
    I would be grateful for a list of your spreadsheet headings for tracking cohorts as mentioned in your blog.

    Also what SMS are you using if I may ask?


  2. greg.carroll says:

    Hi Tom
    I have emailed you the sheet we use -- and we have MUSAC.

  3. Your final paragraph succinctly summarises where the politicians and the media have completely misread the nature of our profession. I really like your approach to hang onto all that is valuable about the NZ approach to student learning -- and the reason it (in it’s current form) is seen to be the standard setter for system driven education. I sincerely hope that your new government doesn’t mess things up in their drive for so called accountability.

  4. greg.carroll says:

    Thanks Graham. Agree with you about hoping or political masters don’t mess up the great potential our new curriculum has in particular.

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