Level 2 - Understand What the Data Can Tell You About Your Students

From Term 1 2017, Victorian government and Catholic schools will use the new Victorian Curriculum F-10. Curriculum related information is currently being reviewed and may be subject to change.

For more information on the curriculum, see:
The Victorian Curriculum F–10 - VCAA

When you have successfully downloaded your data you can begin to ‘read’ it - to scan, compare and cross-reference in order to understand what it says about your students and about your school.

The skills you need to use the Student Mapping Tool

Your capacity to get the most out of the Tool will grow with your knowledge of the Excel program. If you are not strong in this area, you may wish to ask someone to support you informally when you first start to work with the Tool. It is better to learn than to delegate, because it will allow you to spontaneously seek answers to new questions as they occur to you.

The examples provided in these pages, related to the various ‘levels of engagement’ with the Tool, will take you step-by-step through a real enquiry.

Your Region’s CASES21 Training staff offer a session that will develop the specific Excel skills you need to work with the Tool.

What the columns mean

You can download a full description of the column headings (Word - 91Kb). You can also run the cursor over the small red triangle in the corner of the cell containing a column heading to obtain further information.

Reasons why the data might not be complete or accurate

The data on the spreadsheet in front of you is the latest data that your school has entered onto the CASES21 database or VASS (if applicable), or data from NAPLAN testing. Your school may hold more up-to-date information, but it has not yet been entered onto CASES21 or VASS.

The most common examples of data errors and possible reasons for these when schools first use the new version of the Tool are:

  • We are receiving an error message. There are some common error messages you may encounter:
    • Run-time error – Please follow the instructions in the Extraction Guide to refresh your connection to Seamless Views
    • Type mismatch – Please contact the DEECD Service Desk on 1800 641 943 or email: servicedesk@edumail.vic.gov.au
    • Application-defined or object-defined error - You may be using a filter within some part of the spreadsheet. Please find the filter, and clear it, then refresh the Tool using the green button.
  • There is no attendance data, or it is significantly out of date. Your attendance data has not been transferred from third-party attendance packages onto CASES21.
  • There is not enough attendance data to assess which students are poor attenders. It is too early in the year. The data that appears in the Tool only covers attendance from the start of the academic year. By the end of first term or first semester, you can refresh the data and get a better sense of attendance patterns.
  • Some of our good attenders are showing a high number of unapproved absences. Your school is possibly recording students on work experience, Structured Workplace Learning and School Based Apprenticeships and Traineeships or community service as ‘absent’. In primary schools, your school may be entering Prep students (who only attend four days per week in first term, for example) as ‘absent’ on the fifth day.
  • There is no suspensions data. Your school is not using the ‘reasons for absence’ coding option on CASES21 to show that a student is absent because they have been suspended (code 401).
  • There is no internal suspension data. Your school is not using the ‘reasons for absence’ coding option on CASES21 to show that a student is absent from the classroom (but not the school) because they have been directed not to attend (code 400).
  • Some or all of the literacy and numeracy achievement levels shown are out of date. Assessment results from mid-year have not yet been entered onto CASES21.
  • The SFO (Student Family Occupation) column is full of ‘U’s. Many of your families have not provided family occupation information on the enrolment form. This should be resolved as soon as possible, because SFO level is a key risk indicator and you may be missing out on funding to which your school is entitled.
  • I know that some of the SFO ratings for particular families are not accurate. In many schools, families are only asked once for medical, family occupation, eligibility for aide assistance or other data - upon enrolment - which means it is six years out-of-date for your oldest students. Some families may also, quite reasonably, wish to present themselves in the best light and may write ‘company director’ instead of ‘plumber’, when both of which are technically true. Educating families about how the SFO is used by DEECD and by your school might assist with this phenomenon.
  • Some of your Koorie students are not shown as K, T or B. Some Koorie parents do not identify their children as such on enrolment forms, because they are unsure why a school might want to know this, or in what way their child will be treated differently because of it. Remember that this unease is likely to stem from their own childhood experiences. A growing trust relationship between your school and its Koorie families, and accurate information about what impact identification as a Koorie will have on a student’s experience at school, should lead to more accurate data over time.
  • Some of the students who have left the school do not appear as ‘exited’. Your school has not yet entered transition information about these students onto CASES21.
  • NAPLAN data does not appear. 
    • Make sure you are using the latest version of the Tool. There are NAPLAN sheet tabs at the bottom of the workbook.
    • NAPLAN data will only show for those students who sat the most recent round of tests. The data must be downloaded from the NAPLAN website, and saved as per the instructions in the Extraction Guide in the Student Mapping Tool folder on your school's U drive. Please follow the naming instructions exactly, as data will only load from the exact file names noted in the Extraction Guide. 
    • If you are receiving the error mesage "ImportDate-Naplan-Error viCols>256 or viCols<19" the data download from NAPLAN website was incomplete. Please re-download the data from the NAPLAN website and try again.
  • VASS data on Year 11 and 12 achievement does not appear.


How to complete the ‘map’ – shading cells yellow

You will have noticed that some of the cells in the spreadsheet are already shaded in yellow. This is because the Tool will automatically highlight known risk factors, such as an attendance rate of less than 80%, or the fact that the student qualifies for the use of an Integration Aide.

There are several areas in which you will need to ‘tell’ the spreadsheet what you consider to be a risk indicator – i.e. number of days of unapproved absence, and literacy and numeracy achievement levels. Following the steps below will enable you to quickly shade in yellow all results that you believe might be of concern. 

For unapproved absences, the number of days that you will consider acceptable will depend on your school and when you download or refresh the data. For example, at the end of first term, you might consider more than 6 days of unapproved absence to be a concern. At the end of third term, you might consider more than 20 days to be unacceptable. In a school with excellent attendance, you might like to look at all students with more than 3 or 4 days of unapproved absence.

To show you how to proceed, let’s assume you would like to draw attention to all students with more than 6 days of unapproved absences.

1.       Select the column by highlighting the column of data you wish to format: e.g. click on the cell at the top of the column, and while holding down the "control" and "shift" keys, tap on the down arrow.

2.       On the ‘Home’ tab, in the Styles’ group, click on ‘Conditional Formatting’

3.       In ‘Highlight cell rules’, select ‘Greater than…’

4.       Type ‘6’ into the first box, and choose ‘Custom format’ in the second

5.       In the ‘fill’ tab, select yellow as the background colour

6.       Click OK and OK again

Your spreadsheet should now have highlighted in yellow all cells in that column with a number greater than 6.

Asking the questions that interest you

The Student Mapping Tool is only useful if you ask it the questions that matter, and use the answers to inform your decision-making. Remember that data does not explain WHY things are the way they are. Don’t leap, and don’t let your staff leap, into believing you know why some Koorie students are poor attenders, or why low income students are under-achieving in numeracy, or why your students do better in Year 7 NAPLAN testing than Year 9. The data, when it is accurate and sound, can tell you what is. Only an intelligent investigation will tell you why.

However, once you understand the kinds of the questions the Tool can answer, you will be able to access better evidence to support internal school discussions and planning. The questions below can be answered as soon as you download the data, before you enter any additional information into the Tool.

Remember that you, as a member of the leadership team, do not have to do all of the data analysis yourself. If you are trying to improve literacy, email the Literacy Coordinator a copy of the Tool and ask for a report based on what it contains. You can make a copy, delete all of the rows except the Year 9s and send that version to the Year 9 coordinator. Don’t forget to specify the questions you are particularly interested in! And don’t forget to provide your staff with the support they need to develop their Excel skills.

Some examples of questions the Tool can answer are provided below.

Literacy or Numeracy Coordinator/Head of English/Head of Maths:

  • What proportion of our students are achieving at age appropriate levels according to NAPLAN results?
  • What proportion of our students are achieving at age appropriate levels according to teacher assessment?
  • What proportion of our students are achieving at least one year above age appropriate levels?
  • Does this proportion decline or increase when you compare students across Year levels?
  • What proportion of our students are achieving at below age appropriate levels?
  • Does this proportion decline or increase when you compare students across Year levels?
  • Is there a significant discrepancy between teachers in their assessment (e.g. do some rate all students as achieving at levels appropriate to age, while others rate a significant proportion of students as below or above expected levels of achievement)?
  • Who are the students you believe to be under-achieving? What proportion of students do they represent?
  • What proportion of under-achieving students are homeless/from low income families/Koorie/recent arrival refugees/have an attendance rate of less than 80%?
  • What proportion of under-achieving students have been internally or externally suspended since the start of the academic year?

Student Wellbeing Coordinator:

  • What proportion of our students are homeless, from single parent families, from low income families, Koorie, recent arrival refugees or have a disability?
  • What is the correlation between each of these groups and academic achievement? (E.g. 10% of all students are underperforming academically, but 45% of students from low income families are underperforming academically.)
  • Which students have exposure to multiple risk factors (according to the Tool)? Are all of these students currently ‘on the radar’ of wellbeing staff and other relevant staff members?
  • After looking at the data showing the risk factors, how many of our students do we consider to be at risk of early school leaving? See Level 3 notes to assist answering this question.


MIPs/Careers coordinator:

  • What is the correlation between exposure to risk factors and early school leaving at our school? Which risk factors were present for most of our early school leavers?
  • What can the Tool tell us about students who leave our school to go to another school? (E.g. what % were under-achieving in literacy or numeracy, were high achievers, were Koorie, were from low income families, had been suspended internally or externally?)
  • What can the Tool tell us about students who leave our school to engage in work or training, or to go to ‘unknown’ destinations?

Year Level Coordinator / Student Wellbeing Manager / Leading Teachers:

  • What proportion of your students will need additional support in literacy or numeracy to achieve age-appropriate standards?
  • Are there any risk factors which are present for many or most of these students?
  • Which students are presenting with early attendance issues?
  • What proportion of our students will need extension programs of some kind?
  • Do our high achieving students have any common characteristics or preventive factors?
  • How many Koorie students are in your year level / home group and how many have developed Individual Learning Plans (through discussion with teachers and their families)?
  • Are there high achieving Koorie students who we should be supporting to reach their potential?

The questions you start with will be shaped by your current priorities. Remember that the Tool was designed by a long-serving Victorian Principal for you, to help answer your questions and dispel some of the ‘accepted wisdom’ that could be reducing your school’s effectiveness, constraining your student learning outcomes and wasting your staff’s time.

Getting your first answers

Using some of the questions above, look at how you could use the Tool to obtain the answer. Once you have found the answers to one or two questions, you have all the skills you need to really understand your student cohort and to identify the students who have been exposed to some of the known risk factors for early school leaving. ‘Using the Tool’ means using the same skills over and over again – mostly conditional formatting and filters.