Data Tools Help Schools Meet Federal Mandates

As students head back to school, several states are turning to predictive analytic tools to meet the data aggregation and analysis requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Schools are also hoping the tools can help teachers boost the performance of students in their classrooms.

This summer the Naperville, Ill., school district, located in the suburbs of Chicago, trained the principals in its 21 schools to use SPSS Inc.'s predictive analytic software to evaluate student performance, said Alan Leis, superintendent of the Naperville Community Unit School District 203.

The No Child Left Behind legislation "forces us to focus on individual student data . . . and on large groups by schools," Leis said. "[The analytic software] will allow us to see which students are on a normal growth path and which students are below it . . . and to predict which students are most at risk for not meeting achievement standards."

Congress passed the act in 2001 in an effort to improve the performance of primary and secondary school students.

Planning for Growth

Chicago-based SPSS began working with the Naperville school district a year ago on a project to build a master data warehouse that pulled together the contents of disparate data¿bases containing test scores, demographic data and other information used with the predictive analysis tools, Leis said.

The district's principals and administrators started using the tools late last month to analyze data and build growth plans for schools and the district's 19,000 students. The district expects the software to replace the time-consuming process of manually analyzing data from test score spreadsheets, Leis added.

"Now we can give [the users] a CD with all this data on it so they can do the what-if analysis," he said.

If the system works as expected, Leis said, he hopes to eventually expand use of the software to the district's 1,200 teachers.

Phil Ashworth, coordinator of testing data for the Hamilton County school district in Chattanooga, Tenn., said he has been using SPSS predictive analytic software for several years to analyze test data. A year ago, Ashworth added SPSS's Clementine data mining tool to the mix to provide a graphical representation of test scores from the district's 40,000 students.

The new tool allows the district to establish parameters for analysis and to run a report on and apply those parameters to any of its 80 schools without having to rewrite instructions, he said.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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