In his 7th annual State of Education Address to educators, policymakers, students and parents last Friday, California Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell praised the Long Beach Unified School District’s use of student performance data to improve instruction.
“Let me give you one great example of using data to improve instruction,” O’Connell said. “About 16 years ago, the Long Beach Unified School District began a teacher-driven project aimed at collecting assessment data in order to better understand ways to keep students in school. In order to do this effectively, the district created a data collection system, and as teachers began to find this data more and more useful, the system evolved into a local longitudinal data system.
“In one instance, the data highlighted exceptional results in student performance in math at one particular school. It turns out that one math instructor named Si Swun designed his own standards-aligned math curriculum, called Math 2-D, which was making headway with students. Based on these results, the school expanded this same curriculum to other classes.
“Eventually, based on the data coming from this school, the district expanded this curriculum even further, to other schools, and began to assist Mr. Swun in the production of materials for the curriculum. As the district began a pilot program for the curriculum in more of its schools, it designated Mr. Swun to coach others on teaching the curriculum.
“The pilot schools performed exceptionally well. In fact, these schools experienced a one-year, 24-point gain in their API scores due to fifth-grade math proficiency. Long Beach had such great results that they expanded the math program district wide.
“Then other districts heard about it and it spread to Fresno, Compton, Garden Grove, Lennox, and Oakland. Today, thousands of students are in the (Math Achievement Program) MAP 2-D program, making real gains in proficiency– all because of one teacher innovating in his classroom a data system able to identify his success and a culture of continuous improvement.
“This is exactly the kind of professional learning community that uses data to support instruction that we hope to stimulate and foster through the Race to the Top, and I would like to salute teacher Si Swun who is here today for his innovative and collaborative spirit.”
O’Connell joins a growing number of state and national leaders who are noticing LBUSD’s effective use of student performance data. President Barack Obama, in his first major policy speech on education, said last year that LBUSD’s data-driven instruction is something other districts across the nation should emulate.
“Of course, raising standards alone will not make much of a difference unless we provide teachers and principals with the information they need to make sure students are prepared to meet those standards,” Obama said. “And far too few states have data systems like the one in Florida that keep track of a student’s education from childhood through college. And far too few districts are emulating the example of Houston and Long Beach, and using data to track how much progress a student is making and where that student is struggling.
“That’s a resource that can help us improve student achievement… so we can assess what’s working and what’s not,” Obama said. “That’s why we’re making a major investment in this area that will cultivate a new culture of accountability in America’s schools.”