Newswise — Texas Tech University’s College of Education has been awarded a grant worth $1,464,882 from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for the establishment of a data-management system, consisting of data capture and visualization, within the University School Partnerships for the Renewal of Education Preparation (US PREP) National Center.

The data project will be a collaborative effort to provide teacher preparation programs within US PREP institutions the information needed to produce exemplary teachers who are ready, from day one, to teach effectively and to engage and inspire students to move to even higher levels of achievement. The work is being led by US PREP Executive Director Sarah Beal and Marcelo Schmidt, director of assessment and continuous improvement.

“The data management system is going to help all universities within US PREP make sense of their data and understand how their programs are performing,” said Scott Ridley, dean of the College of Education. “Further, and most importantly, it is going to turn large amounts of data into actionable insights.”

US PREP, established by the College of Education in January 2016 with a $7 million grant awarded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, was created with the purpose of transforming teacher preparation programs across the United States. In addition to Texas Tech, the current coalition includes colleges of education from Jackson State University, Sam Houston State University, Southeastern Louisiana University, the University of Houston, the University of Memphis, the University of Missouri-Kansas City and the University of North Texas-Dallas.

Significant transformative changes have taken place within the programs at each institution. But each also has continued to be challenged with the collection, analyzation and utilization of data for the purpose of program improvement.

“When programs are able to easily access data on their teacher candidates’ performance, the result doesn’t just affect the teacher candidates who are being trained,” Beal said. “It also affects the faculty who are training them, the administrators who lead the teacher preparation programs, the school districts where the candidates are trained and the K-12 students who are being taught by our candidates.”

Building a robust data-management system

Creating a comprehensive data-management system, complete with tailored, interactive dashboards, means each partner has access to data organized into meaningful, real-time, actionable information. Data like teacher candidate performance assessments, student perception surveys and mentor progress reports can be used to visualize key performance indicators and make changes and decisions on a day-to-day basis.

Chris Mueller, chair of the Department of Instruction and Curriculum Leadership at the University of Memphis, said having a fully integrated dashboard will allow crucial data to be collected and utilized in a way that allows for true continuous evaluation and improvement at the candidate and program levels.

“As the teacher preparation landscape continues to evolve, responsive dashboards ensure teacher preparation programs can keep pace with rapid advancements in technology, outcomes and the ever-changing nature of the students we recruit,” Mueller added.

Providing technical, on-the-ground assistance

By providing technical support directly, US PREP staff will continue to reinforce, at all levels, a culture of habitual and systematic use of data not only to make decisions about teacher candidate interventions and program revisions, but also to commit to the implementation of these decisions.

“In the last two years, US PREP has supported us in making our data actionable,” said Nadine Gilbert, Jackson State University program coordinator. “This support has helped us design and implement semester-by-semester data days, data-driven mentor teacher trainings, data sharing at our district governance meetings and data to measure the impact of our teacher preparation courses. This new data system will allow us to be much more efficient in our collection processes as well as providing all of our faculty access to the data.”

Once the data system is developed, coalition members will receive ongoing training and support with inputting, accessing and visualizing data. Readily accessible data from all partners means US PREP staff, and each individual program, will be better equipped to support enhanced data management and usage on an individual partner basis. This will help staff more readily recognize areas of strength and those that need improvement within each program.

Sharing data

Sharing data from all partners allows each to use these findings and learn not just from their own programs, but from one another.

“The dashboards will lead to greater awareness of the educational program’s strengths,” Schmidt said. “This will allow for data-informed decision making and the ability to assess the impact these programs have on the communities they serve.”

Conducting research on data usage

The final goal of the project is to explore how, and to what extent, US PREP supports continuous improvement in teacher-preparation programs. The hope is that this research will demonstrate how data can be applied to proactively design and implement interventions that improve evidence-based decision-making in teacher preparation programs. The first phase of the project focuses on supporting local program self-studies aimed at analysis and improvement of their data use practices.

“All too often, new data technologies are developed without sufficient thought about how they will be used,” said the University of Washington’s Charles Peck, who is leading the self-studies. “One of the things I am particularly excited about with this work is its unusual investment in understanding the needs of the people we hope will use the system. My hope, indeed everyone’s hope, is that these emerging technologies will become powerful tools that both university and public school-based educators can use to improve the ways we prepare new teachers for their work in the classroom.”

US PREP is currently working with each coalition member to map their data to the Ed-Fi Teacher Preparation Data Model to be stored in an operational data store (ODS). Once data is mapped and loaded into the ODS, members will be able to access their data through the dashboard at the start of the fall 2018 semester.

For more information about the US PREP National Center, visit the website.

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CONTACT: Sarah Beal, executive director, US PREP National Center, Texas Tech University (806) 834-1923 or [email protected]