The Proof is in the Data

In the months ahead, Trident Academy will begin to release statistical evidence that demonstrates the effectiveness of its educational approaches. Staff have begun to gather data from the school’s 42-year history to develop an extensive study of its teaching approaches and student success.

Data collection and analysis are essential parts of learning differences education. The information we will gather will illuminate the academic, social, and behavioral strides students are making in their respective learning processes. The collection and analysis of such data is critical in measuring the effectiveness of assistive technology, intervention strategies, therapies such as applied behavior analysis (ABA), and reading intervention approaches such as Orton-Gillingham. By analyzing these data, our teachers can adjust interventions as needed to better meet each student’s individual needs.

For example, data are used to formulate Formalized Education Plans (FEPs) at Trident Academy which are tailored specifically for each student to attain specific learning goals and objectives. One approach to data collection is a series of systematic observations by educators to monitor a student’s progress. Standardized tests or assessments are also used to measure improvement. Utilizing standardized assessments also allows teachers to quantify individual students’ progress in relation to their classmates or other groups. With proper analysis teachers can determine whether or not the strategies they have implemented are on target or in need of adjustment, to maximize the educational potential of each child.

“It is a matter of due diligence to collect and analyze students’ data, not for the sake of simply “number crunching”, but to be able to make informed decisions with student FEPs,” says Kathy Cook, head of school. “Without the data, without the analysis, our teachers would not be able to make the optimal choices our students’ learning paths.”

Because data analysis is often the realm of Ph.D. institutions, it is sometimes difficult to establish benchmarks in classroom settings, where field research is prevalent. In choosing assistive technology software for learning differences education such as Lexia, it is usually the software companies that have collected and analyzed data from participating schools in order to show that their product is effective. At this point, schools for learning differences are not collaborating on a national scale to share best practices or results of field research in the classrooms. In future years, the need will become even greater to find ways of categorically quantifying student progress and further defining effective interventions.

To learn more about this project, contact Nicole McLain, program director of Trident Academy. She is available by email at or by phone at 843.884.7046.

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