Considering a Data System?

Recently, I was asked what is the most cost-efficient way to provide multi-year data storage and be able to access it for creating reports. Four questions come to mind which need to be answered before providing a database recommendation.


1: Will the data need to be accessed by users in various sites across the district, rather than one person at a central site?

2: How many users do you anticipate connecting to or viewing the data?

3: Do you want a unified system which would be a database AND a way to report the data? Or do you want separate database storage and a separate reporting tool?

4: what is your budget?


Option 1 – Single user, no budget then MS ACCESS will do the job.

Option 2 – Multiple users, low budget: then a self-hosted database such as MS SQL, MySQL, or Oracle XE Express. There are free tools which can be used “read-only” to query the data and make basic reports

Option 3 – Multiple users, low budget (Less than $10,000 and no per-user fee), cloud-hosted and a query/reporting tool. My choice would be a host Oracle database with Application Express for query and reporting. Unlimited users can be added AT NO ADDITIONAL COST. Users can have various roles and permissions to view and manipulate data.

Option 4 – Multiple users, high budget (over $30,000 and per-user fees), cloud-hosted and a separate reporting tool, which has the per-user fee, I would recommend a hosted database and an add-on reporting tool. For example, a hosted database may cost $1,500 per year and then a user fee might be $10-$20 per user PER MONTH. So for 250 viewers (teachers) the cost at $10/month would be over $30,000 per year.

I recommend option 3, which is what Data Smart LLC provides to school districts. Data Smart LLC does all of the database management, data uploads, report tweaking, and analysis reports as part of its single fee.

Engaging Students in Their Learning

Benchmark Testing Reports

With benchmark testing occurring throughout the state, this is a good time to consider how the information is used to improve student learning from the student perspective. Teachers generally examine the data to identify where they may need to re-teach or identify students who need additional instruction. However, what do the students get out of the benchmark testing process?

In my work as a data coach, I rarely encounter instances where a complete report of the student performance is provided to the student. This is an unfortunate situation. SchoolNet provides a student benchmark report. The last time I saw the report it was 7 pages long, really too long to be printed and distributed for each student.  Additionally, I wondered if it provided the information students really needed.   

Therefore, for some guidance on the topic of making learning “real” for students, I turned to Chapter 7: The flow of the lesson: the place of feedback from the book Visible Learning for Teachers by John Hattie.

Student Feedback

Here are some points Hattie makes:

  1. The quality of the feedback provided to students is a critical characteristic of successful teaching and learning.
  2. The feedback must have the ability to allow the students to see their successes and track progress to mastery.
  3. The feedback must have the ability to allow the students to see learning gaps between their performance and expected achievement
  4. The focus is on building self-understanding and self regulation of learning within students.

I would add that it is essential to provide information that encourages a growth (improvement) mindset; therefore I would add these characteristics to student feedback in two or more assessments of learning during a course:

  1. Feedback should include the learning targets in the form of skills list for the entire course, so students know what they have learned in relation to the “big picture”.
  2. The essential skills (high impact skills) are identified so some understanding of the relative importance of the skills is communicated in the student report.
  3. Item-level feedback is provided so that students gain an understanding the nature of the errors and what to do to improve.

Added Features of a Student Report

In the student reports I have created, students have a space for the student to write a reflection by answering the question:  What did I do to get these results?  Below that is a space for the student to write an action plan describing what will be done differently to improve results. 

Creating the Student Feedback Report

  • Some assessment tools include the ability to export item level data along with the standard or skill each item tests, if not then performance by standards will have to do. The data steward will export the data from the data assessment.
  • Put this data in a table in perhaps a Microsoft Access database.
  • Add the average score for each standard or skill, or the correct answer for each item if you have item level data.
  • In Access create a report template, to accept the data from the table as it “fills in the blanks”. Make sure you include the average score or the correct answer for each item.
  • Run the report so that data from the data table is inserted into the Access report.