School data tutorials

Educators today are expected to integrate the collection and analysis of student learning data into their ongoing instructional and organizational practice. Yet if you walked into almost any school in this country and asked how many teachers knew how to make a basic graph using spreadsheet software, you'd be lucky if a fourth of them raised their hands (and don't even bother asking the administrators!). So what can we do to help educators learn some basic technology skills that can help them track and monitor student learning progress over time?

CASTLE's School Data Tutorials web site was created to assist school districts and educational leadership preparation programs with the task of training K-12 educators to work with raw student and school data. The web site contains over 100 short Flash screencasts that walk educators through some Excel skills that are extremely helpful when working with classroom-, building-, or district-level data. Popular tutorials that are immediately useful to teachers and principals include

  • sorting
  • filtering
  • conditional formatting
  • pivot tables and charts
  • Most of the screencasts are only a minute or two long and can be watched a thousand times if necessary. This is extremely useful for educators who are not that tech-savvy and may not be able to keep up with the group during face-to-face training. The online availability also allows educators to return to the site later to review something if they forget what they learned previously.

    We have been getting tremendously positive feedback about this resource. Educators who previously saw no intersection of spreadsheets with their professional lives are contacting us, indignant that no one has ever showed them these skills previously. Comments like "I could have saved myself a lot of time" or "Now I have a way to do this easily" are extremely common. One of the reasons I think the tutorials are so well-received is because they're grounded in the important, real-life, data-driven decision-making needs of teachers and administrators (as opposed to the generic, context-less Excel training that occurs in many school systems).

    This summer we added a section to the site that walks educators through the steps of creating their own data collection templates. This section, which is not quite as polished as the rest of the site (e.g., I think you can hear my in-laws' computer's aquarium screensaver in the background!), contains examples for principals, teachers, and grade-level teams. In the coming months, we will upload additional examples of templates that are being used in schools across the country.

    The tutorials currently are being used in schools, districts, and university preparation programs across the nation. I encourage you to check out the site (maybe you'll learn something helpful!) and to spread the word about this resource. We created it to help build some capacity in school systems. Right now data analysis expertise resides primarily in central office research and assessment departments - we need more knowledge in our buildings and classrooms.

    More information is available at the web site if you'd like to know more about this resource or our critical partners. Any feedback or suggestions that you have are extremely welcome - simply comment on this post!

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