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  • This blog is written by specialists from the Education Division of the Inter-American Development Bank. Its objective is to provide arguments and ideas that will spark debate about how to transform education in Latin America and the Caribbean. This blog is a call to action for the reader. An idea, a project, or a question can make a difference.

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    Las opiniones expresadas en este blog son las del autor y no necesariamente reflejan las opiniones del Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo, sus directivas, la Asamblea de Gobernadores o sus países miembros.

    The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Inter-American Development Bank, its Management, its Board of Executive Directors or its member Governments.

    You can’t make a pig fat by weighing it! – Part II

    By and - 27 Nov 2013


    Seven lessons learned and three steps to use data to improve teaching

    In the last post of this series on student learning evaluation we showed that, although test results are available, schools and teachers across the region do not systematically use them to inform education policy and teaching practices. We know we have a problem, now let’s focus on solutions.

    On October 28-29, Ministry of Education head planners and statisticians from 14 countries came together to try to find ways to better use data to improve education outcomes in the Caribbean. Speakers included regional educators who shared ongoing initiatives in their own countries and international experts who shared best practices in using the results of student evaluations for policy purposes as well as for improving learning results at the school level.

    Miami workshop -2

    Miami workshop -3

    Photos taken during the workshop by Marcellus Albertin, Head Education Development Management Unit, Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States

    Workshop participants identified seven lessons on how to use data to guide teaching and enhance learning:

    1) Don’t give the test just for the sake of giving it. A National Assessment Strategy (vision) is needed. It is not just a matter of administering standardized tests but of using the results to improve learning.

    2) Tests must be reliable and trusted. Technical reliability and integrity of the assessment process is crucial.

    3) Coordination is important. Assessment units must coordinate their efforts with other Ministerial units to feed results back to the schools in a user friendly and timely manner.

    4) Think about the teachers. The assessment strategy and approach should be “teacher friendly” (formative) and politically “savvy” (avoid alienating the protagonists).

    5) Don’t emphasize rankings. It is important to avoid “unfair” comparisons that lead to inaction or opposition (place more emphasis on reporting value added and progress by each school).

    6) Strike the balance between accountability and support. System monitoring (accountability) goals should be balanced with formative uses and school support to improve results.

    7) Complement test results with qualitative evaluations. Quantitative evaluations need to be complemented with qualitative information to learn what can be done to improve results.

    Starting positive conversations around assessment data at the school level:

    School teams (principals and teachers) need time and professional development opportunities to learn to use data to improve results. Three steps lead from measurement to action:

    1) “What?” What data is being collected and what does it tell us? (interpreting the data – diagnosis).

    2) “So what?” Why does the data matter? What are the key issues and how can they be addressed? (analyzing the data; understanding the issues, and coming up with shared strategies as to what can be done to improve).

    3) “Now What?” Now that we know the issues and the policy options/possible interventions, how do we go about implementing them? What do we do about it? (translating strategies into action as part of a School Improvement Plan with resources to support its implementation).


    So what are you doing in your countries? Share your stories. Let’s work together to better use data to improve education outcomes!

    In our next blog we will broaden our perspective and share some of the insights and international best practices from the new OECD report entitled “Synergies for Better Learning: an international perspective on evaluation and assessment”. 

    5 Responses to “You can’t make a pig fat by weighing it! – Part II”

    • Glyne Price :

      “Think about the teacher.” It is the student that is being assess not the teacher. Hence, any assessment strategy should be student friendly.

      At present too many teachers view the results of assessment as a reflection on their ability or lack of ability to deliver instruction.

    • Molly Jacas :

      We need to look at teacher capacity. I am suggesting that we need to question the authenticity of data collected by teachers in our schools. If the data being analysed emanates from internal tests developed by classroom teachers then there are issues with the validity of test items, and the range of skills and competencies being tested (Bloom’s Taxonomy).

      We therefore need to seriously consider building the capacity of teachers to conduct their own formative assessments using their valid instruments which they developed as they implement the curriculum.

      Our less effective schools where instructional supervision is weak could benefit from such a project which brings into focus testing and measurement as a start point for using data to improve teaching.

      • Marcellus Albertin :

        Issues of validity and reliability are important, no doubt. However teachers are not to be scared of designing their assessment strategies or using whatever data that are available because of concerns about these issues. What is needed now is to get more teachers (every teacher) using testing and assessment data to inform their instructional strategy. There has to be a total movement where all see and appreciate the value in so doing. As teachers get confident in in the process and they begin to see the positive results — ultimately what we want — they can be remind them of the attributes of good quality data.

        • Cynthia Hobbs :

          Molly and Marcellus,
          Thanks for your comments. The use of assessments and resulting data is part of good teaching – testing, gaining information on student progress, checking that progress against the teaching goals, re-teaching areas that were not fully understood, moving forward.

          The IDB financed a recent study in Jamaica on effective schools which showed that this same process is also important at the school level, via School Improvement Plans led by the school principal. Again, it is the process of developing a plan with members of the school community based on available data, incorporating the planned activities into the daily operations of the school, and then carrying out ongoing monitoring and evaluation of the plan to inform overall progress. It is the continuous feedback process, checking against original goals/targets/standards and making the necessary adjustments, that leads to effective teaching and effective schools.

          • Molly Jacas :

            I agree with you Cynthia. However, we need to work on compliance with planning and implementation of same.

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