How Practitioners Interpret Data and Link Data to Instruction: Research Findings on New York City Schools Implementation of the Grow Network

April 1, 2004

Urban districts have faced the intense external scrutiny of a high-stakes accountability climate for some time (Fullan, 2000), but the shift in the funding and regulatory environment represented by the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) is prompting district and school administrators to think differently about the potential that newly accessible data has to inform instruction and decision-making aimed at raising student achievement. In particular, since NCLB holds educators as well as students accountable, the exploration of how data can inform instructional decisions is increasingly becoming a main topic of educational policy (Salpeter, 2004; Secada, 2001).

Using data to make decisions and prove accountability is the focus of a two-year study being conducted by Education Development Center's Center for Children and Technology (CCT). The independent study is examining a large-scale, data reporting system, developed by the Grow Network for the New York City's Department of Education, that organizes students' standardized test data into reports customized for teachers, school leaders and parents. For teachers, the reports provide overviews of class-wide priorities, group students in accordance with the state performance standards, and enable teachers to focus on the strengths and weaknesses of individual students. For the administrators, the reports provide an overview of the school, and present class and teacher-level data. For the parents, the report explains the goals of the test, how their child performed, and what parents can do to help their child improve their score. Each Grow Report, which is delivered both online and in print, summarizes the data into rankings by score and groups students according to New York State performance levels.

This paper presents a conceptual framework that explores the intersection of decision-support technologies, educators, and the process of transforming data into knowledge. To illuminate this framework, we share initial findings of our research around the question of how teachers analyze the information provided by the Grow Reports, and synthesize it into their understanding of the classroom to make decisions about instructional practices and their students.


Dara Wexler
Cricket Heinze
Daniel Light