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October 16, 2013 Countdown to Conferences: Getting My Data Ducks in a Row By Lindsey Petlak
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8, 9–12

    It’s conference countdown time, and I’m getting my data ducks in a row. If your conferences (like mine) aren’t until late November, then this is just in time to help you buckle down and prep for the big event. If your fall parent-teacher conferences already passed, then use these tips, websites, and apps to make collecting and communicating data a snap at spring conferences!

    While I don’t like to drown parents in data during parent-teacher conferences, using data to drive instruction, 1:1 student coaching, report card grades, and as the basis for in-depth discussions with parents at conferences is key to success. Repeat after me: “Data is our friend!”

    Student Data Tracking Binders (ELA and Math)

    What They Are: As stated by Kristine Nannini (the author of the student data tracking binders that I use), using data tracking binders, “Students will monitor their own growth and progress using standards-based assessments, rate and date their learning using Marzano's Levels of Thinking/Understanding.”

    How I Use Them: Using student data tracking binders is one of my new obsessions this year! By using these binders, students are aware of the standards they are learning, improvement between pre- and post-assessments, learn how to set SMART goals, and analyze their level of thinking/understanding for each standard. 

    At conferences, if students are present, they use the binder as a guidebook to talk to their parents about goals, progress, and areas for improvement. If students are not attending conferences, I use the binders for the same purposes.


    Interactive Student Notebooks

    What They Are: The ELA interactive notebooks that I use with my students come from Nicole Shelby and my math notebooks are from teacher author, Mrs. Rojas. I think Shelby sums up what Interactive Student Notebooks are perfectly: “Interactive Notebooks serve many purposes in the classroom. The notebooks become an 'anchor' for the standards taught, as well as a reference that your students can use throughout the year.”

    How I Use Them: Interactive student notebooks tie with data tracking binders as my student tool favorites! Students add to interactive notebooks in ELA and math as part of our standards-based mini-lessons each day. The great part about using a notebook is that we may continually add to existing entries throughout the year. Worksheets that are sent home are long gone when we need to reference them at later dates! 

    For conferences, these notebooks are information portfolios for student work, annotation skills, standards practiced, and include my handwritten notes and “scores” (1-4 rubric scale that our district uses for our report cards, which aligns with Marzano’s Levels of Thinking/Understanding) for each entry.


    OpenSchool ePortfolio

    What It Is:  “OpenSchool ePortfolio allows a teacher to easily create and maintain digital portfolios for an entire class or multiple classes. It incorporates multimedia tools built into mobile digital devices and has an inviting interface that motivates students to participate in the process of creating an authentic record of their academic, artistic and social growth.” –OpenSchool app description

    See below for full features and capabilities.  OpenSchool is a FREE app!

    How I Use It: This is my favorite new digital find! In our classroom, we participate in tons of project-based learning, creative ways to demonstrate our understanding, and a variety of cumulating student products. Such work requires rubric scoring, and is often difficult to physically put into a portfolio and equally problematic to share with parents. OpenSchool allows me to assign tasks and projects to individuals or the entire class.  Students (or I) then upload photos, videos, voice recordings, or other documents as evidence of work completed. Using the built-in rubric system, I am able to instantly grade the submitted projects. 

    At conferences, I may choose to save the student portfolios to show for our face-to-face meeting, or I am able to share a student password with parents so that they may access student work submitted and rubric grades acquired throughout each grading period, to be further discussed at conferences. This year, I am going to introduce student ePortfolios at our fall conferences and at that time, share their child-specific student passwords. From that point forward, parents will be able to access portfolios whenever they want. At spring conferences, we will have open discussion led by the students regarding the contents of their ePortfolios.


    What It Is: iDoceo is an app-based gradebook for the iPad. No Internet access is required to use it. This app will calculate averages in real time, includes features for seating, lesson plans, checklists, icon/text/number grading, and more. You may import and export information to and from this app, to make record keeping and communicating data simple and efficient. iDoceo is a not-free, but inexpensive app.

    How I Use It:  I ADORE iDoceo for numerous reasons!  It’s my first year using this app, and I can’t wait to learn more functions as I further explore. Recently iDoceo made some major upgrades to their app, which will enable me to use the program even more than I already do! Currently, I’m using iDoceo to track standards taught and practiced, checklists for school forms, and behavior. It’s most useful for recording scores on non-percentage-based assignments (like projects and/or interactive student notebooks) using the 1-4 scale from our report cards and Marzano’s Levels of Thinking/Understanding. 

    For report cards and conferences, this app makes assigning scores (1-4) on report cards a snap and is easy to reference should questions about those scores arise at conferences. Parents can see at a glance the history of student performance across subject areas.



    What It Is:  If you don’t have an iPad, try LearnBoost! “LearnBoost’s FREE, all-in-one solution empowers teachers in managing their classrooms. Teachers use the intuitive gradebook software to track student progress and generate beautiful reports and analytics in real time. Plus, you can create rich lesson plans, track attendance, maintain schedules, integrate Google Apps and tag Common Core State Standards.” –LearnBoost website

    How I Use It:  Until recently (due to an iDoceo app update), I have found LearnBoost to be easier than iDoceo for recording points and percentage-based assignments and assessments. Therefore, I’ve used LearnBoost to document such work and it has functioned in much the same way as iDoceo for report cards and conferences.

    CC Pensieve

    What It Is: The CC Pensieve started out as an online conferring notebook specifically to support Daily 5 and Daily CAFÉ by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser. Now, the CCP has evolved to be a comprehensive digital conferring notebook for all subject areas. Information may be sorted, shared, and exported in a variety of ways. See below for full features and capabilities. CC Pensieve is a paid subscription-based program.

    How I Use It:  Since its expansion to include conferring documentation across all subject areas, CC Pensieve is my go-to for detailed anecdotal record keeping during student conferring both 1:1 and in small groups. With this program, I document standards taught, strategies focused on, lesson topic and observations, next steps, and assign a 1-4 score for each session that aligns with our report card scale.

    For report cards and conferences, fully detailed reports may be downloaded and printed both for talking points or to add to student portfolios. These reports are also perfect for reviewing as a basis for final grades and in-depth conference discussions.

    Easy CBM

    What It Is: This online curriculum-based measures database allows teachers to administer, chart, and track student data by using brief assessments in reading fluency, comprehension, and math skills. Some schools and even districts use Easy CBM on an organization-wide basis for RtI, but its applications for classroom teacher use are simple and effective. The lite version of Easy CBM is FREE!

    How I Use It:  Easy CBM is great for quick, simple, on-going assessment and progress monitoring. These curriculum-based measures serve as one small aspect of my student assessment. I find them useful pieces of data when monitoring RtI or if students are being considered for special services. 

    For report cards and conferences, these extra tidbits of data may help determine a report card score that is borderline, as an extra data point for student data tracking binders, or to back up talking points with parents.


    IXL and XtraMath

    What They Are:

    IXL: “IXL is a comprehensive, standards-aligned math and language arts practice program offering unlimited problems in thousands of skills. One of the best things about IXL is that students can access it from school and from home!” –IXL website (IXL requires paid membership.)

    XtraMath: XtraMath is a free, web-based, math facts fluency program that allows students to practice math facts from school and home to increase both fluency and accuracy of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division facts. Students work independently on building fact fluency and the program automatically generates progress reports for teachers. XtraMath is FREE!

    How I Use Them: In class and at home, students use these programs as quick, consistent, independent practice for fact fluency and a wide range of other math skills. 

    For conferences, these programs both provide student use and progress reports which may be added to student portfolios and as talking points with parents to encourage student skills practice at home, as well as documentation for fluency and accuracy of math facts.




    Class Dojo

    What It Is: ClassDojo is a classroom tool that helps teachers improve behavior in their classrooms quickly and easily. It also captures and generates data on behavior that teachers can share with parents and administrators. Better learning behaviors, smoother lessons and hassle-free data — and its free! Class Dojo website

    How I Use It:  Dojo points are doled out daily in our class. See my blog post on using a classroom economy to see the role Dojo points play in our daily routines. Parents of my students have the ability to view their child’s accumulated points for positive and negative behaviors any time they wish, or I am able to email a weekly report. 

    For report cards and conferences, these Dojo reports are GOLD. We are so busy as teachers, that it is really hard to keep efficient and effective behavior data. Even when we are able to track that data, it’s often difficult to share with parents. Dojo allows my parents to keep constant tabs on behavior, so nothing is a “surprise” at conferences. Additionally, I am able to use the reports to determine grades, print off for student portfolios, and present to parents at conferences as a summary of student performance throughout the grading period.


    New Data Gems in Your Treasure Box?

    Think of data as your friend when preparing for instruction, report cards, and parent-teacher conferences. I hope at least one of these suggestions (paper, digital, or both) have sparked your interest either as you are in the final stretch before fall conferences, or as you look ahead to meeting with parents in the spring! Do you have great data collection and conference prep tools in your treasure box to share? If so, please leave a comment below.

    Thanks for reading, and be sure to SUBSCRIBE TO MY BLOG POSTS if you would like automatic updates when new content is posted.


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