Data-mining system discussed

School board looks at ways to better assess students' work

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— Using a data-mining system to profile students' academic careers, administrators and teachers can now look at detailed Colorado Student Assessment Program scores to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses.

But administrators found that looking to a larger-scale profiling system would give the district better assessments on students' overall scores throughout the year.

The state gave the CSAP data-mining system that is now in place to school districts for free. However, the district does not yet know the financial magnitude of a larger system.

"We have $15,000 earmarked for this (larger) project as part of this year's budget that has not been spent yet," district technology director Cathleen Totten said of the half-cent sales tax dollars.

Data mining involves using tools to look at data in different ways, whether by grade level or gender, among many other things.

The current tracking or profiling system allows administrators and teachers to access each individual's CSAP scores only.

"We can look at individual students and how close they are to proficient or raise it up to the class or look at a specific school," said Tim Bishop, Steamboat Springs Middle School principal.

John DeVincentis, Strawberry Park Elementary School principal, said currently teachers and administrators are making these same evaluations by hand. He said he hopes to find a program that would evaluate all other in-house testing, including the CSAPs.

The CSAP system is set up to evaluate scores by using the state proficiency standards.

Bishop said the quandary among the various districts and the state is whether the CSAP system will allow teachers to better teach the test or to have a clearer picture of where students are in their academic careers.

"But it will pan out across the test and in the long run it will better educate students and teachers," Bishop said.

Totten gave staff and board members a visual graphic Monday night of what systems are in place in the district, what areas are emerging and other areas that are being explored in terms of larger-scale data management.

The mission of a larger data-mining system is to have access to all systems that could essentially talk to each other.

"Our goal is to change the instructional process. After all, that is what this is all about," Totten said. "We have the data available, now we just need to use the (correct) tool."

Judy Harris, former district director of content standards, said the CSAP was never designed to individually mine the data and a bigger system would create a larger body of evidence for teachers, administrators and even parents.

"CSAP was never designed to be an individual student-diagnostic test," Harris said.

Accessibility to the technology is limited with only the CSAP system but a larger system also would allow people to go online to look at the data, including parents and students.

"We've been looking at different systems for as long as I've been here and we've been very cautious in choosing the right one," Harris said. "Some districts sink pretty big bucks into one piece and then say, 'Oh, that's not really what we want.' We're looking for the system."

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