Making Sense of Educational Data

Guest blog post by Dr. Nicole M. Michalik – Cowriter (with Dr. Jeff Watson) of the series Making Sense of Educational Data

There are those things in life that are so common or necessary it is just expected that you know all about it, what to do with it, or better yet, how to do it.  I recently read an article about the 30 things everyone should be able to do by the age 30.  I am over 30 so I gave the article a go.  I can swim, find my way around without GPS, and could get from point A to point B driving a stick shift if I had to.  Skip to the end, I nailed 29 of those 30 items.  While the list was pretty fluffy and easy to check off if you are even remotely connected with modern life in the United States, I cannot do 1 of those items.  I cannot change the oil in my car. 

I know what oil looks like and I know what the finished product should be - mainly clean oil in the car, dirty oil not in the car - but the technical aspects of how to change the oil elude me.

I don’t have a list of the 30 things educators should be able to do, but I’m sure that at least one expectation today is that educators should know what to do with data.  Education data is so common and necessary, educators should just know what it is and what to do with it.  Teachers and administrators are to ‘analyze the data’ and ‘make data-driven decisions’ to ‘positively affect student outcomes’.  Now, get to it!

But maybe, just maybe, no one ever explained to you what to do with the data.  Those basic pieces of how to actually change the oil were conveniently glossed over on the road to becoming a teacher or in your teaching experience itself.  It’s possible that you attended a professional development session on data and using data to make decisions.  Remember that 30-minute session 5 years ago?   You were given the oil and you know where it should go in the end, but you don’t know what to do in between, except maybe that there is some draining and disposal. 

Infographic: Leveraging Education Data

This infographic was recently posted on, and we thought it was worth sharing. As the site states:

There’s a big push to figure out what’s working in education. Whether its a fancy new app or an interesting new classroom setup, it’s hard to figure out what works until you try it.

That’s where education data comes in. We’re hard at work on gathering a lot of education data every day so we can help figure out what you should try and what you should avoid.