Data: Predicting Success

Data: Predicting Success

I use my statistical data to develop my own goals. When we can look back and see what we did, then we can predict. I always know my numbers, so I can predict growth for the next year and figure out how I want to improve.

In my self-contained classroom, I did a compilation of 180 students I taught over a three-and-a-half-year period. Of those 180 students who came through my classroom, 66 passed the GED exam. When I subtracted out those who were removed because of discipline issues, went home before they could get their GED, or quit, 75% of my students passed the GED test.

My average numbers can tell me how to predict my results for the following year. I know that for every group of men that I send to the Practice Test (the official Practice Test is administered by another staff member to determine readiness for the GED), 75% will pass. Of those who pass the Practice Test, 90% to 95% will pass the GED.

To some people, that doesn’t mean anything, but to me, it is really important because then I can make predictions based on how many students I have, no matter what their level. Over the years, it has worked out quite consistently, so I can make predictions as to what I will do the following year.

I use those records for accountability and to show progress, or lack thereof, and to help improve my teaching. Where am I strong? Where am I weak? And, of course, these numbers are entered into monthly and quarterly reports to administrators.

I have come to believe many federal, state, and local mandates meant to improve the educational system are full of political rhetoric. Most teachers have probably come to similar conclusions. However, I also believe good teaching can be a science and that there is always room for improvement.

Keeping score, whether for myself or for mandated reports, is how I know if students are improving. Even though I believe many of the testing mandates, for example, can be misguided and sometimes outright ridiculous, I am glad to see closing the achievement gap has been brought to the front burner. These mandates have created chaos and frustration but also more dialogue in the whole country. And, to me, that is very exciting because whether or not we like the accountability/measurement issues, it really can improve our production.

Education today is more challenging than ever, especially when I am under the mandates of the Department of Corrections as well as the Department of Education. I have learned when faced with adverse and difficult policies and mandates, there are two types of educational leaders: those who allow the culture they are building to disintegrate; and those who view opportunities to add creative value to their school.

We need to close the achievement gap, and those who are succeeding at adding creative value are closing that gap!

If you are interested in receiving samples of forms for your organizational system or in sharing ideas in this area, go to “contact me” at

Janice M. Chamberlin, a licensed prison educator in Indiana, is the author of Locked Up With Success. In her book, Ms. Chamberlin shares stories not only of the challenges she has faced but also the triumphs she has seen in the prison classroom setting. She has successfully developed a system that can unlock potential even in the highest-risk students.