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Monitoring student progress can improve instruction

As school districts across the country update their teaching methods to align with the Common Core State Standards, the collection of data monitoring student progress may play a key role in improving instruction.

The Common Core State Standards, adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia, are a set of new academic expectations in mathematics and English/language arts that were developed by teachers, parents, community leaders and education experts to better prepare students for college and the careers of the 21st century.

In addition to placing an emphasis on deeper critical thinking skills, the standards also note the importance of using student data to monitor progress and increase the ability of teachers to personalize instruction.

"We look at personalized learning as the next big leap forward in education," Brandon Williams, director at the Illinois State Board of Education, told Reuters.

In relation to the Common Core State Standards, this request for more student data is taking the form of a national database that will record the academic progress of public school students from kindergarten up until high school graduation.

According to Reuters, the database will document students' learning disabilities, test scores, attendance, and perhaps even their career goals and attitudes toward school.

Even teachers who find themselves working in states that do not plan to align themselves with the Common Core State Standards, or who do not teach in a public school district, may want to take steps to use student data to improve instruction.

"Research has demonstrated that when teachers use student progress monitoring, students learn more, teacher decision making improves, and students become more aware of their own performance," education experts Nancy Safer and Steve Fleischman wrote in Educational Leadership.

Teachers can easily monitor student progress through the use of adaptive learning programs, and use the data they collect to tailor their instruction to the skill level of each individual student, combining one-on-one instruction with online learning to maximize success.

This method of teaching, called blended learning, has already been implemented in a wide variety of classrooms across the country, and it is seeing results.

"The ability to pinpoint needs and the ability for teachers to use data at a very high level for individualized instruction – that's probably the biggest change that we've seen over the last six years," Susan D. Patrick, president and CEO of the International Association for K-12 Online Learning, told EdNews Colorado.

Although students will be asked to meet higher academic expectations when the Common Core State Standards are fully implemented, the use of student data may help teachers tailor their instruction to help students achieve at a higher level.

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