Wisconsin District Relies on Data-Driven Decisions to Help Its Schools, Students Succeed


Wisconsin District Relies on Data-Driven Decisions to Help Its Schools, Students Succeed

In February, four students from Chilton High School (WI) qualified to compete in the 23rd annual American Invitational Mathematics Examination. Among the four students was a junior who would have been denied placement in algebra during his eighth-grade year if the school had relied on teacher recommendations, as had been the norm for years in the district. Instead, thanks to the district’s dedication to making data-based decisions regarding student-performance improvement, the student was able to take algebra in eighth grade—and has excelled ever since.

While the student was in seventh grade, during the fall of 2001, the Chilton Public School District implemented a data warehouse from TetraData Corp., a South Carolina-based data analysis software company that focuses solely on the data-driven decision needs of educators. Once the TetraData Analysis Suite was in place in Chilton, the district changed the way it did business.

The district was then able to transform its math placement guidelines and move toward a data-driven focus. Thus, students were placed into math courses based on multiple data points rather than just on the recommendation of their teacher. While teacher recommendations still played a role in student placement, the new criteria included the student’s classroom grades and his scores on the Northwest Evaluation Association’s Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) assessment as well.

“The MAP guideline for placing a student into algebra is a score of 235. This student had a score of 268 on the math MAP test as a seventh-grader, but he would not have met the criteria of teacher recommendation for eighth-grade algebra because he was not getting very good grades in class,” says Dr. Rebecca Blink, director of curriculum, instruction, and assessment at the Chilton Public School District. “Fortunately, he was placed into algebra anyway as the district implemented its new data-based guidelines for placement.”

Now, four years later, that same student who nearly didn’t get to take that important first step in advanced mathematics is competing successfully in the subject on a national level.

“The great part of this story is not only is the student extremely successful in the area of mathematics now, but ever since we changed the criteria for placement in our math classes, he has taken several advanced math classes and performed well,” Blink says. “It was clear to us then, as it is today, using data to make decisions is not only the right thing to do, but it is also doing the right thing for kids.”

Rebecca J. Blink, Ph.D., is the director of curriculum and instruction, district assessment coordinator, district data manager, and K-12 district reading specialist for Chilton Public School District in Wisconsin.