A study released this fall by the Research Alliance for New York City Schools at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development finds that the Achievement Reporting and Innovation System (ARIS), built to make schools more data-driven and to focus attention on achievement results, is being used largely as a school-wide planning tool and much less as a direct assessment of classroom instruction.
“ARIS does not include much ‘real-time’ data, like students’ daily assignments, quizzes, and tests,” says James Kemple, executive director of the Research Alliance. “As a result, is it not surprising that its use appears to be confined largely to school-wide analysis and planning, rather than daily classroom instruction.”
According to the study, on average, educators logged on to ARIS 21 times throughout the year for about five minutes per session and made limited use of the system’s more complex analytic functions and virtual collaboration tools. The heaviest users were school administrators and teachers with school-wide roles, like data specialists.
The study found that nearly three quarters of the city’s nearly 95,000 administrators, teachers, and support staff used the system at least once during the year, but generally for only brief periods. A subset of administrators and teachers used the system much more heavily; this group accounted for just 28 percent of users, but racked up more than 80 percent of all the time spent on the system.
While many teachers report that ARIS is their primary source for information about students’ backgrounds and achievement, they identified a number of areas where the system could be improved. These include the need for more kinds of data, including more regular student assessment data, better training and professional development, and dedicated time to work with and learn about the system.
“ARIS is an evolving system,” says Thomas Gold, the report’s lead author. “We suggest that developers do more to consult educators when designing data systems, and that advanced features like complex analytical tools and ‘virtual communities’ be tested under real-world conditions before going to scale.”
Some of the report’s recommendations for ARIS are already being implemented by the NYC Department of Education, which continues to make changes in response to feedback from teachers and administrators. They have piloted the integration of diagnostic assessments in reading, allowing teachers to evaluate and monitor students’ progress on a more regular basis.
The Research Alliance is planning a second report in the summer of 2013. It will look closely at newly added features and conditions that encourage wide usage.