An English Academy in South Korea: How they analyze data…

Bernhardt / Chapter 3

Chapter 3 of the text is an overview of the improvement process which involves collecting multiple forms of data to help understand how to move a school “forward.” 

Discuss your efforts at “comprehensive data analysis” work (based on last week’s data assignment.  Answer the following questions:

1. How do you know if what you are doing is making a difference in student learning?  

2. Is your approach to school improvement a “systems approach” as Bernhardt recommends? 

3. What is currently “working “in your system? 

4. What are your particular challenges?

5. Is your school improvement “random acts of improvement, or “focused” improvement that improves learning for all students?

I think I am learning a few more things about my school than I knew in the past. Sorry my answers are so long….

1. How do you know if what you are doing is making a difference in student learning? 

At my current position there are systems in place that mirror what Bernhardt discusses but because this is South Korea and I work at a private academy things are a bit different.

Referring to Figure 2.1 in Ch. 1 that shows the Multiple Measures of Data, my English language academy does a great job of handling the information of school processes because we have a very set curriculum that is mapped out to the minute. Since they set this, everyone knows what is being done in class.

They also collect perceptional data from parents through phone calls. Unfortunately, student perceptions are neglected and because of this many students can be negative about learning. (I posted in Ch. 2 about the unhappiness of students in Korea…)
Students take weekly tests and their scores are recorded but this is nothing like a state assessment. The weekly test is vocabulary or sentences for that given week’s material. Therefore, my school lacks a strong progress data set. They need something that shows how much progress a student has made over time. Because of the lack of assessment testing, it is really hard to say how much certain students have improved. This coupled with that fact that many students are shy to speak in a group makes it really hard. I think because of the way the school is, a private academy that lives off of the tuition of its students, testing like the state assessment would never be done because it could affect business. Then the test becomes a focus point.

Demographics is still a factor even though all the kids are Korean. Different branches of our organization are in different areas. Each area has a varying level of $$$$. I hate to say it but kids in the richer areas seem to have less behavioral issues from my experiences. This data is not collected so much as it is known that certain areas have qualities to them that is assumed to be based on how much money their family has. On a management level, they share experiences and knowledge about these areas when a manager transfers.

Back to the original question….. Since there is no real assessment to measure the student’s progress over time the only way to know improvement is to see it. I will teach a student, they rotate out of my class, and then when we meet again I notice changes. Students begin using more complex words and phrases. Some who didn’t say a word the first time I met them, come back to my class and suddenly they are the most outgoing talkative kids in the class!!!
Thus, the only thing I have to know I am making a difference are interactions with students. On a given day it can change since so much is based on confidence, how comfortable they are with you, etc.

2. Is your approach to school improvement a “systems approach” as Bernhardt recommends?

I think my school has a systems approach. However, it is not the exact same systems approach Bernhardt talks about.

In Bernhardt’s model, we…
collect data >> analyze >> change the systems that cause that data

She mentions trying to really understand the system and its inner workings. In this way we can make focused changes to the system given the output, instead of random acts of improvement.

My academy does not collect any data over time and there is no “state assessment” so that is neglected. However, the weekly tests provide input. Certainly there have been times when many students failed the test and they revamped the test due to this or changed class curriculum.

On a broader level, I feel like many of the changes that take place at my academy are the result of observations rather than numbers.
My manager observes all the teachers in the system two times as part of their yearly contract. In doing so she can see the effects the curriculum has on students.

My Korean partner teachers speak with parents and get feedback from them.

All of this is kind of mixed together, and then decisions are made.

In a sense this approach offers some good things but without some kind of formal assessment every few months I feel that a lot is lost. Also, who is to say whether an observation on a given day will yield true results. My students certainly act differently with someone in the room observing.

I think to better fit into Bernhardt’s model my school would need to incorporate some kind of testing to establish another piece of data to make decisions off of. As it is now, much of the decisions about students and the school are based on individual opinions formed from observation.

3. What is currently “working “in your system?

As discussed above, I feel that the control our system has over curriculum ensures we know what lessons are delivered. Also, the observational data is great in the sense that it is being tested and the much of the results can be seen in the classroom. However, it needs some kind of quantitative test to support those opinions.

4. What are your particular challenges?

My particular challenges are not data related. I have no say in the matter. I am challenged to motivate and make a friendly engaging environment. My observations become part of the collection of opinions that ultimately push students through our leveled system. Sometimes my opinions are not taken into consideration. Biggest challenge in Korea is balancing the fact that the school is a business and trying to keep it as much like a school as you can. Business can be ugly but I want my classroom to offer wonder and excitement. Cutting through the negatives and staying positive for the greater good is the biggest challenge.

5. Is your school improvement “random acts of improvement, or “focused” improvement that improves learning for all students?

Like mentioned above… I don’t feel that my school is completely random in its approach since we do weekly testing and observations BUT since there is no assessment for overall progress a lot of opinion is thrown into decision making.

Also, often decisions are not the result of a roundtable discussion but rather one person’s opinion.

Thus, there are times when a decision is made which seems right to the opinion of the manager BUT it seems very random to others. Decisions could be more focused if discussed more with all the staff and more quantitative data over time was kept.

As part of my ongoing pursuit of a masters in ed with an ESL focus I will be posting my reflections from assignments I am doing.

Currently I we are discussing data analysis as part of our Data Analysis and Assessment course

We are using a book called “Using Data to Improve Student Learning in School Districts” by Victoria L. Bernhardt ISBN = 1-59667-029-0

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