Data collection and analysis is very important in today's elementary classroom. It is a resource that is seldom used, but can be vital in creating a successful year for the teacher and students. The development of your data collection materials is critical to the implementation. When deciding on what to use for data collection, begin with and end in sight.
What will you expect the students to learn by the end of the school year? You need an assessment that will show learning through the year, not just for a short time period. A master teacher begins the school year with an assessment that will show what the students know at several interval points in the year. I start off with a multiple choice test that encompasses sample questions from every learning unit in that subject. This cross section of questions should hit the most important standards you must teach within the academies that year.
After reviewing the results, great teachers will know what to cover more in-depth (as the students have not yet been introduced to the topic) and what lesson plans can be briefly skimmed (based on the results of mastery from the test). Readminister the test every quarter or semester of the school year to gauge growth in the basic skills areas. You can also drive your curriculum based on what still needs to be mastered.
By using an easy resource to check for understanding and skills known (and not known), you are able to tailor your school year more to meet the needs of your students!