By: Robyn Gee
“Be data driven, not data drowning,” is the slogan for Kickboard for Teachers -- an educational software, designed to help teachers and administrators collect data regarding their students’ academic and behavioral performance in one place.
Data is the name of the game in American education today -- in fact, Jennifer Medbery, the creator of Kickboard, was named a "Champion of Change" by the White House. She is a former high school math teacher and Teach for America corps member. Many of the people on the Kickboard team are former teachers as well. The software was introduced in 2009, and is currently in a closed beta phase for individual teachers.
In a nutshell, the software allows teachers to record academic and behavior-related data in one place, and share it with other teachers and administrators who have a stake in student performance. Teachers and school leaders can keep track of good and bad behaviors like being tardy, not wearing a uniform, answering a difficult question and turning in homework. It functions as an online gradebook as well.
But the data go a level deeper than grades, according to Stew Stout, the Marketing Outreach Manager for Kickboard, also a former teacher.
“One of the things I always struggled with as a teacher was, ‘What does a grade mean?’ So if I’m looking at a test and a student got a 75 or an 80, that doesn’t really tell me a lot. But in Kickboard we take the data one level deeper. Every question that a student answers that’s been recorded in Kickboard is based on a skill or a standard that a teacher is teaching... When you put that level of granularity you can really plan effectively. My students did well on this standard, and didn’t do well on this one. I’m going to prioritize what they didn’t do well on,” said Stout.
Kickboard claims that it also works to improve school culture, which might seem like a trickier thing to prove. Stout said Kickboard data allows teachers to be consistent. If all teachers are keeping track of the same behaviors, he said, school leaders can ideally identify when certain behaviors are happening most frequently, and address them.
“Maybe this student is acting out in three classes but doing really well in one class. You can’t see that trend unless you have data. maybe a student is doing really well in qualitative classes but struggling in quantitative classes. These are trends you need data to see. … School leaders can plan really purposeful professional development because they can say, in this class I’m really seeing a lot of students talking out. In this other class I’m not. A school leader can say, I’m going to connect these two teachers so they can help each other,” said Stout.
Because teachers can update data in real time, and the data is attached to a particular student -- not a classroom or teacher -- school leaders and counselors using Kickboard can monitor student behavior around the school during the school day. If a student is having a particularly bad day, and three teachers in a row record concerning behavior for that student in their classrooms, a counselor who sees this on Kickboard could pull this student out of class and intervene. “You can intervene before a trend becomes a problem,” said Stout.
The software raises some interesting questions. Is there such thing as collecting too much data? Is a classroom still a classroom if teachers are more concerned with recording each student's behavior than engaging with the students?
“If people are entering information, and they’re not doing anything with it then the information is worthless... I’m sure there are extreme examples where people are just entering tremendous amounts of data and the marginal utility of the data they’re entering is negligible. But if the data has value and it’s being used, then I think that’s great,” said Stout.
According to Stout, each teacher uses the tool differently. Kindergarten teachers that Stout has worked with do not enter behavior information until the end of the day, since their hands are full all the time. Some high school teachers who use Kickboard have iPad holsters attached to their hips, and are constantly recording behaviors. One school records over 120 specific behaviors that teachers can monitor in Kickboard.
For new teachers, or for teachers starting work at a new school, Kickboard is the equivalent of having the school handbook at your fingertips. “When a teacher signs into kickboard for the first time, the discipline logic is set up, all the consequences are there, all the behaviors are there and those behaviors that a teacher is recording -- those are the same from class to class,” said Stout.
But Stout says they’re not pushing any one particular management system. “When a school signs up, they’re not choosing from a menu of behaviors they want to record, or a menu of consequences they could assign, or a menu of incentives they could give. Instead we’re giving them a tool, a framework that they can use to execute their vision,” he said.
So far, Kickboard is not sharing any quantitative results about how the program has affected student performance.
Originally published on Youthradio.org, the premier source for youth generated news throughout the globe.
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