Transitioning from campus to campus can be difficult for students, especially those who were already struggling prior to transitioning (Cauley & Jovanovich, 2006). This is true for students who are transferring within a district, across districts, or even upward within a feeder pattern. Data and data management systems can go a long way to assist educators in supporting students during times of transition.
By using data effectively during transitions, schools can increase attendance, improve student achievement, and even curb student dropout later (Balfanz, 2011). Making sure receiving schools have student data as soon as possible enables the schools to provide targeted instruction and act in preventative, rather than reactive, ways. For example, screener data and intervention records that are passed along with a transitioning student can enable the new school to immediately begin Tier II intervention services at the start of the year, rather than react after the student has already begun to struggle in his or her new classes. In this case, the previous school’s sharing data and the new school’s using that data enable the student to receive needed services that might not have been otherwise provided.
Because data can be such a powerful tool, schools should send as much data as possible when students transition or transfer. In order to use data effectively during transitions, however, educators must know how to interpret the data collected at students’ previous campuses. Learning to interpret data collected on other campuses can be difficult, and the nuances can be lost in brief trainings. Many researchers recommend having administrators and counselors from both campuses meet to discuss the transitioned data. While this may not be easily done during out-of-district transitions, this practice is entirely feasible for regular transitions within a district feeder pattern. When administrators and counselors meet, they should define the data that are collected, clarify how analyses can be done, and explain the practical implications that come from analyzing these data.
In addition to seeking understanding of the existing data, schools should evaluate if it is necessary to collect additional data about a new student. This might be especially true for students who have traditionally struggled academically or behaviorally at their previous campuses (Anderson, Jacobs, Schramm, & Splittgerber, 2000). For example, when a student transfers to a campus, it might be necessary to administer the local reading screener rather than relying on screener data administered in another district. Another district’s screener may be valid and reliable, but the results gleaned from the assessment must be meaningful to educators on your campus.
Data should also be used to determine appropriate placement of students new to your campus. You will want to consider not only grade level but also services provided through special education, bilingual and English as a second language (ESL) programs, and gifted and talented programs. Information about previous placement should be used along with assessment data sent from the previous school and any additional assessment you conduct. Consult program specialists when delineating placement procedures for special programs such as bilingual/ESL and special education to ensure compliance with state and federal guidelines. For example, forms such as parental consent and home language surveys may be transferred along with other student data and may not need to be replicated.
You will also need to consider student placement with regard to intervention services provided in your response to intervention (RTI) framework. Typically, students who were receiving intervention services at a previous campus continue to receive services at their new campus. However, depending on the two campuses’ RTI plans, this may not be true. For example, students might qualify for Tier II services at your campus based on their transitioned screener data, but not have received intervention services at their previous campus. In this case, it might be beneficial for educators on your campus to collect more data about the students to understand why intervention was not provided and consider providing the students with intervention services on your campus in the meantime.
Finally, transitioned data can be used to guide core instruction in general education settings. It is important to ensure that classroom teachers have access to transitioned data as quickly as possible so they might use this data to guide their instruction and provide students with appropriate instruction as soon as possible after a transfer or transition.
TO LEARN MORE: When collecting and analyzing data, it is important to remember the features of effective data and effective data use. For more information on this important topic, you can reference the five Assessment lessons of this course. It may be especially useful to reread Lesson A1—Literacy assessment plan (especially Part 1) and A2—Identifying students at risk.
REL Northeast and Islands has created Practitioner Data Use in Schools: Workshop Toolkit to help teachers and administrators use education data more systematically and accurately, including during student transitions. The toolkit includes an agenda, slide deck, participant workbook, and facilitator’s guide, and the workshop can be customized for specific contexts.
NEXT STEPS: Depending on your progress in using assessment data during student transitions, you may want to consider the following next steps:
- Evaluate the existing data management system(s) in place on your campus and determine if consolidation of data management systems would be advantageous for teachers and other users. Consider creating supports for educators on your campus if consolidation is not possible (e.g., creating a data management systems guide).
- Define the written procedures and timelines for reporting data for students transitioning to another campus (end of year and throughout).
- Define the written procedures and timelines for collecting data for students transitioning from another campus (beginning of year and throughout).
- Collaborate with other campuses in your district to establish mutually agreed upon procedures for sharing student data for incoming and outgoing students.
- Train all staff (including English learner specialists, classroom and elective teachers, and counselors) on data use and ensure the use of new (or incoming) student data to inform instruction and assessment of transferred students.