Assessment data hard to get, hard to use, say K-12 teachers


Many K-12 educators have trouble getting and making sense of performance data from digital assessment tools, hampering efforts to more effectively assess student progress, according to a study released Wednesday from a leading education software maker.

Instructure, the company behind Canvas, reported that just 50 percent of educators receive individual student performance data from the assessment management systems available to them.

The survey also found only 35 percent of the teachers who responded to the survey said they receive progress-over-time data for their students, and just 28 percent receive subject-specific data from the AMS systems in use at their schools.

“Fifty percent of people saying that they get unaggregated data about student performance is just very sad,” Hilary Scharton, vice president of product at Canvas by Instructure, told EdScoop. “[Teachers] need that individual student performance data in order to improve instruction in our classrooms, and when that’s not happening, it really hinders our ability to make good database decisions about what to do moving forward.”

The survey of 530 teachers also found that 72 percent of respondents desire more rapid data dissemination, which would theoretically enable them to make changes in curricula and individual learning plans more quickly.

But the study suggested even if teachers had faster access to assessment data, they still face a number of obstacles.

“Once teachers receive data from their assessments, they have difficulty analyzing this data, and may be lacking the proper tools to interpret the data and help their students thrive,” the survey noted.

The lack of performance data, along with a struggle to properly interpret it, can limit teachers’ ability to improve their curricula. The study also found that teachers often don’t feel empowered to make changes even if they wanted to: Only 38 percent of respondents feel they have the flexibility to alter their curricula with the help of assessment data, while 56 percent feel the same about individualized student instruction.

“[Some teachers’] current AMS may not be solving all
the problems teachers face in terms of data visualization
and analytics, but the technology is significantly more
beneficial than the alternative,” the study suggested. Though assessment technology has evolved to the point where teachers see the value of them, “they are reluctant to — or may
not have to ability to — adopt them,” the study said.

The study’s findings accompanied the release of a more advanced assessment management system from Instructure, called Gauge.

The assessment platform is fully compatible with Instructure’s Canvas learning management system. The AMS “enables schools to create effective, formative interim and benchmark exams, deliver them to individuals or groups of students, and use the data collected to directly influence instruction,” said Mitch Benson, vice president of product for Canvas by Instructure, in a prepared statement. The new AMS release offers educators advanced assessment tools, with built-in security, scalability and mobile capabilities, officials said.