Assessment and Student Success in a Differentiated Classroom: How Accurate Data Can Help You Cut Through the Noise

The amount of data we collect as educators can be overwhelming. Data collected with fidelity can help cut through the noise to inform useful, meaningful decisions that set students up for social and emotional success. Dr. Lisa Micou talked with SEL Coordinator Jayme Gaudet in a recent webinar about school assessment and student success in a differentiated classroom. 

What Data Sources do you Rely on to Determine Student Success Metrics?

Jayme explained that her district began by looking at data in terms of academic performance and nurse visits. Using additional student attendance metrics, they gauged student in-class time, behaviors exhibited, and frequency of those behaviors. That baseline data collection showed students’ behaviors stem from insufficient social and emotional skills. The district sought a tool that collected accurate data and prioritized standardization and students’ strengths. That’s where Aperture Education’s Aperture System— home of the DESSA suite of assessments— came in. 

Standardized tools ensure consistent item administration, scoring, and skill growth measurement over time for reliable data assessment. The strength-based, standardized measurement within the Aperture System focuses on students using their assets to develop their areas of need. This aligned with Jayme’s goal of focusing on assessment and student success in a differentiated classroom. 

“[The Aperture System] led us to educating and training educators, faculty, and staff to support them in responding to behaviors with a strength-based lens,” said Jayme.  

She explained the district also found the Aperture System incredibly helpful in identifying students that may internalize behavior. While externalized behaviors quickly get recognized because of their disruptions to the classroom, students may also process their lack of a specific skill through internalization. The Aperture System captures data on students who experienced internalized behaviors. This gave educators tools to help them follow up to support all students in differentiated ways. Expanding their data through a social-emotional lens enabled their educators to assess, track and measure students’ skill progress systematically.

What is the Difference Between Reliability and Validity?

Jayme emphasized that while her district possessed ample data, factors like validity and reliability were key to understanding the full story. So, what is the difference between reliability and validity? Reliability refers to the consistency of a measure like growth in skill. On the other hand, validity refers to the accuracy of an assessment. Additionally, it asks if you are measuring what you are supposed to be measuring?  

Overcoming buy-in challenges for SEL at the high school level can be especially challenging. However, Jayme effectively utilized Aperture System data to demonstrate students’ social and emotional skill development over time. As a result, she could confidently share that high school students collectively got stronger in Self-Awareness and Social Awareness. Across the district, 30 students moved from need to typical skill level. 

“We may have been able to do that in the past, but we’ve never had data to quantify that or show students’ growth,” Jayme said. “What I like about this measurement is it’s not just students in need, the Aperture System is for all students. Just because [a student] has a need in one area doesn’t mean they don’t have a strength somewhere else. We had a light bulb moment happen with our team because we had data that gave us an opportunity to show educators what they are reporting from their data and the impact it has on students.” 

Jayme further emphasized that these data-driven insights empowered district leaders to move beyond mere problem recognition and actively tailor interventions to students’ individualized strengths and needs.  

“This gives us steps for how to prevent and intervene to provide support. Here’s what we need to do to intervene, how we do that, and in what ways. Using data for our stakeholders and our community to show them what the need is,” explained Jayme. 

Additionally, she highlighted that it’s not simply about stating how students feel, but rather effectively communicating to families the actions taken to support their children. Moreover, having access to such data enables families to see their child’s growth in skill development over time.

Why Systemic SEL is Critical 

Valid, relevant quality data makes a world of difference in school communities. While the academic integrity of data matters, the quality of data at the social and emotional level is also crucial. District leaders and educators can support all students in the classroom, small group, and individual levels with a focus on sequenced, active, focused, and explicit evidence-based SEL instruction. 

Moreover, the impact we see from systemic SEL stems from a student having social and emotional competence to problem solve, overcome obstacles, and reach goals. With valid and reliable measures of social and emotional skills, educators can confidently answer, “Do students have the social and emotional competence to be successful behaviorally, emotionally, and academically?” 

Are you looking to measure your SEL curriculum’s effectiveness? We’re here to help! 

You may already have an SEL curriculum in place that focuses on fostering these skills, but are you measuring its impact? Fill out the form below to get in contact with a member of our Partnership team, who will serve as your guide for scaling your SEL program. 


1 Jimenez, K. (2022, October 24). Reading and math test scores fell across US during the pandemic. how did your state fare?. USA Today. 

2 Belli, B. (2020, January 30). National survey: Students’ feelings about high school are mostly negative. YaleNews. 

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