Facilitating Discussion with Student Data

This post is the fourth in a series based on a transcript from a recent Q&A with Dr. Alan Coulter as part of his webinar, “Prepare for Impact: 3 Key Questions About RDA for Every SPED Administrator.” Questions came directly from audience participants — special education directors, special educators and clinicians, and answers are from Dr. Coulter. Click here to see additional questions from the Q&A.

Do you think that our current IEP system and student information systems are up to the challenge of facilitating new types of discussions?

With student data systems, we need to have very careful considerations about data quality. To what extent do the student data systems — and there are usually are several: some for achievements, some for attendance and demographics, others for discipline — talk to each and to what extent are those data systems accurate? Suspension and expulsion data, for example, typically is notorious for being inaccurate and of poor quality. When we make judgments about data, it needs to be weighed in light of the quality of the data that we are looking at.

Secondly, a lot of people collect data but very few people use that data systematically over time. The use of data action teams supported by school administrators is one of the most durable and persistently successful activities that schools can do.

Dr. Alan Coulter is an expert in special education accountability, and has worked at the federal, state, and local level on accountability issues for over twenty-five years. He has served on the President’s Commission on Excellence in Special Education, and is currently the Director of Education Initiatives and an Associate Professor at the Louisiana State University Health Sciences and Human Development Center. Alan is also the director of the TIERS Group (Teams Intervening Early to Reach all Students). TIERS consults with state DOEs and district administrators on the quality and use of special education data. Alan is a key participant in the national discussion regarding Results Driven Accountability and focused monitoring.  His scholarly work and research is widely published in academic journals.