Can Data Mining Lead to Better Results in the Classroom?

Can using common accounting practices, like gathering data and using performance metrics, result in improved student performance?

Professor Shannon Anderson is exploring this question as part of a research project examining the use of a data portal tool created by Aspire Public Schools. The system, known as Schoolzilla, collects raw data from a school’s source systems—including the California State Test and benchmark assessments—and makes it readily available to teachers and administrators in the form of charts, graphs and textual information. The idea is to empower teachers to immediately identify which students are doing well, which are struggling, and to adjust their teaching strategies. The data also will make it possible to evaluate individual or groups of students over the long term.

Schools have always had this data, but it’s been difficult to access for teachers,” Anderson said. “This is decentralizing the data. Teachers and school leaders are now able to pinpoint and drill down with the data.”

Her research examines the data thorough a management lens, trying to determine the long-term effectiveness of using the software. She is analyzing the impact of two years of use of the tool in 27 Aspire schools for about 4,500 California students in grades three through eight.

We’re testing whether teachers who make the greatest use of these tools are able to produce improved results in their students,” Anderson said.

Anderson spoke about the use of accounting practices in education at CPA Australia’s Annual Congress in Sydney in October. She gave the Bill Birkett Memorial Lecture, the only academic lecture given at the event, which is Australia’s largest gathering of certified public accountants.

Anderson was also recently invited to join the advisory panel for the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, the world’s largest organization of management accountants, with members in 176 countries. Anderson has been asked to participate in a project to develop a series of management accounting principles that will help businesses define best practice in management accounting and demonstrate these principles through case studies.

In August, Anderson’s publication, “An Empirical Examination of Goals and Performance-to-Goal Following the Introduction of an Incentive Bonus Plan with Participative Goal Setting,” received the Notable Contribution to the 2012 Management Accounting Literature award for the Management Accounting Section of the American Accounting Association.