New York City

Chancellor Farina announces new NYC school data tracking tools

May 21, 2015 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
New York City Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña. AP photo
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Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña announced the release of two new interactive data tools that will allow schools to more easily measure student progress, the city’s Department of Education (DOE) said on Wednesday.

Using the technology, principals and teachers will be able to identify struggling students earlier, identify and address performance trends at their school, and track current and former students’ progress over time, DOE said.

The first tool, called the Progress to Graduation Tracker, provides high school teachers with real-time information about which individual students are on-track for college and graduation.

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“On-track for college” students have the credits and exams necessary for a Regents diploma, as well as the English and math scores necessary on Regents, SATs, ACTs, or CUNY assessments.

The second tool, dubbed the School Performance Data Explorer, provides current information about students in all grades. The data can be sorted by categories including grade and demographic subgroup, and allows schools to compare their own students’ performance to other schools.

It also provides information on how former students are doing academically since they left the school.

“The new data tools we’re releasing today are going to be a tremendous benefit to principals and teachers – first, by giving them time to focus on instruction instead of having to collect and analyze data themselves, and second, by ensuring they have high-quality data that can inform their instruction and help them meet the needs of every student,” Fariña said in a statement.

She said the tools will be particularly helpful for Renewal Schools, which can use them to support struggling students.

Courtney Winkfield, principal of the Academy for Young Writers in Brownsville, said the tools would help prevent students from falling through the cracks. “This is also a game-changer in terms of efficiency, as it will save many principals and teachers time that they would otherwise spend collecting and compiling their own data.”

Leonie Haimson, who heads the advocacy group Class Size Matters, expressed caution, however. “It can easily become data profiling, and be used to identify kids who will be excluded from admission from schools or pushed out,” she told the Brooklyn Eagle.

“Moreover, the whole notion of identifying kids through their test scores as ‘college ready’ or not is incredibly controversial — especially with the new Common Core exams whose validity and reliability have been widely questioned,” she said. “In general, grades have been shown to be a far better predictor of college success than any other metric.”

Sources familiar with the software said that student privacy would be ensured because the new tools will only be available through the Principals’ Portal. In addition, principals and field support staff are receiving training to ensure their appropriate use.

Sources also pointed out that the Progress to Graduation Tracker’s college-readiness component is simply aligned to CUNY remediation requirements. Those who are on-track for the credits and exams required to avoid remediation at a CUNY school are considered on-track for college; those who do not, are not.

DOE spokesperson Devora Kaye said the data tools “will help principals identify their students’ needs and craft effective early interventions like never before. These tools will be critical in our educators’ work to put every student on the path to college, meaningful careers, and a lifetime of learning.”

Both data tools have been developed in-house by the DOE.

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