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November 10, 2016

Trackable, Usable, Powerful Data for Decision Making

By Meghan Everette
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8, 9–12

    I have a confession: I like data.

    I realize that most educators have a love-hate relationship with data. It’s come to mean punitive measures based on achievement as measured by test scores, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Sure, data can mean how students fair on summative assessments, but it can be so much more. Becoming a data-driven school can be a years-long process, but being a data-driven decision maker can be you starting right now.

    Last year, I was fortunate enough to participate in a training from Data Quality Campaigns. One of the first activities we completed was listing all the different kinds of data we use to inform instruction. I was surprised and saddened to hear many teachers say their schools only use summative data to drive instruction and to judge teaching quality.

    I am also fortunate to have worked at truly data-driven schools that use all the measures available to drive decisions. Not only can we collect student data, we also factor in data that impacts the school as a whole. Keeping track of our families and community, external factors and resources, and even the specialties of our staff can help drive decisions.

    Here’s a few, and certainly not all, data points you might consider:

    Types of Data

    • Running records

    • Exit tickets

    • Formal observation checklists

    • Informal observations and notes

    • DIBELS records

    • A record of services received

    • Behavior charts

    • Absences and tardies

    • Area crime reports

    • Extracurricular experiences

    • Stakeholder needs

    • Parent contact logs

    • Grades or points

    • Student work samples

    • Open-ended response items

    • Unit or standards assessments

    • District, state, or national test data

    • Demographic data, such as mobility, graduation rates, family employment

    • Community programs and resources

    • Area growth projections

    • Digital program reporting

    • Reading records

    Recording Data

    One of the most powerful data tools I’ve ever used was the spreadsheet. It was simply known as that, The Spreadsheet, because it informed many of our school-based decisions. All teachers complete a sheet for their class each quarter, which is our grading period. For every student, teachers list every pertinent grading measure, including end of quarter testing and class grades. Then teachers list the less obvious data, such as reading level, average writing assessment scores and focus standards, absences, tardies, and DIBELS data. The real secret? The columns that ask about special programming, activities, and outreach for each student.

    The Ultimate Data Spreadsheet

    This form allows me to look at a child across all subjects to see if there is a consistent and persistent issue, or if one area is out of line with the rest of the information. Then I can look at data vertically, seeing how my class did as a whole in any given area. I can compare math, science, and literacy and see if one is out of line with the others. Putting my information together with others on my grade allows a look at the grade or program instruction as a whole. Instead of saying, “Wow, that teacher’s scores are horrid,” we can say, “That teacher is excelling. What are they doing that others can emulate?” Taking even a broader look, we can see how kids are progressing vertically in each subject area. If we save these sheets, we can look at data over time.

    Download a spreadsheet template and then modify to fit the data your school has available.

     

    Not Just Numbers

    Elementary school principal Matt Wachel recently shared a strategy for making sure data is about more than assessments and numbers. He said, “Our staff put dots next to each student they had a personal connection with. Those students with few dots became a focus for us.” Similarly, students on The Spreadsheet with no activities or supports are cause for concern; are they not being supported adequately? Are they not being offered additional programming to suit their needs or interests? What is happening at home, are there barriers to participation we should be aware of?

    Fasee Sollars, elementary assistant principal, said they put student pictures right along with the data as they review. Keeping that cute little face in mind when you are talking helps keep the focus on who’s important and what you are working for. Consider keeping track of families that have been contacted for a positive interaction or a log of parent communication as a key data point.

     

    Reviewing Data

    What are you going to do with all this data? Ideally teachers examine their own data and then come together to talk about the highlights, challenges, and solutions with grade level teams and vertical teams. We informally check for understanding all day long, and keeping an eye on what students are telling us through their scores, work, and attendance speaks loudly. Data dives can be a great chance to go deeper, bounce ideas and best practices around with fellow teachers, specialists, support staff, and administration.

    When reviewing data, some norms can come in handy. Great Professional Learning CommunitiesData Reflection set some ground rules and my favorite is “presume positive intent.” We are looking at data to find out what we’ve done well and where we can improve instruction. This is supposed to be supportive and focus on solutions. That can’t happen if we become guarded and presume people are out to judge us. A handy form that keeps me focused and solutions-oriented is simple and easy to use. Take a moment to celebrate what’s going well (and even some growth is an achievement), then see what needs to improve. Remember to focus on what you can control and then make a plan. Writing that plan down and having a date for follow up, even if it’s just a quick check with a trusted coworker, can help keep you focus on what’s important.

     

    More Options

    I could fill a book with the data records that I’ve used in every subject, both formally and informally. I included the two that I feel give me the most bang for my buck in this post, but others can be helpful depending on your needs and focus.

    Don’t be afraid of data. Don’t let data get you down. Use continuous, formative, summative, and informal data about all aspects of your students and their learning to be your guide and they will never steer you wrong.

     

    Follow Me @bamameghan | Subscribe to the RSS Feed

    @bamameghan    RSS Meghan Everette

     

    I have a confession: I like data.

    I realize that most educators have a love-hate relationship with data. It’s come to mean punitive measures based on achievement as measured by test scores, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Sure, data can mean how students fair on summative assessments, but it can be so much more. Becoming a data-driven school can be a years-long process, but being a data-driven decision maker can be you starting right now.

    Last year, I was fortunate enough to participate in a training from Data Quality Campaigns. One of the first activities we completed was listing all the different kinds of data we use to inform instruction. I was surprised and saddened to hear many teachers say their schools only use summative data to drive instruction and to judge teaching quality.

    I am also fortunate to have worked at truly data-driven schools that use all the measures available to drive decisions. Not only can we collect student data, we also factor in data that impacts the school as a whole. Keeping track of our families and community, external factors and resources, and even the specialties of our staff can help drive decisions.

    Here’s a few, and certainly not all, data points you might consider:

    Types of Data

    • Running records

    • Exit tickets

    • Formal observation checklists

    • Informal observations and notes

    • DIBELS records

    • A record of services received

    • Behavior charts

    • Absences and tardies

    • Area crime reports

    • Extracurricular experiences

    • Stakeholder needs

    • Parent contact logs

    • Grades or points

    • Student work samples

    • Open-ended response items

    • Unit or standards assessments

    • District, state, or national test data

    • Demographic data, such as mobility, graduation rates, family employment

    • Community programs and resources

    • Area growth projections

    • Digital program reporting

    • Reading records

    Recording Data

    One of the most powerful data tools I’ve ever used was the spreadsheet. It was simply known as that, The Spreadsheet, because it informed many of our school-based decisions. All teachers complete a sheet for their class each quarter, which is our grading period. For every student, teachers list every pertinent grading measure, including end of quarter testing and class grades. Then teachers list the less obvious data, such as reading level, average writing assessment scores and focus standards, absences, tardies, and DIBELS data. The real secret? The columns that ask about special programming, activities, and outreach for each student.

    The Ultimate Data Spreadsheet

    This form allows me to look at a child across all subjects to see if there is a consistent and persistent issue, or if one area is out of line with the rest of the information. Then I can look at data vertically, seeing how my class did as a whole in any given area. I can compare math, science, and literacy and see if one is out of line with the others. Putting my information together with others on my grade allows a look at the grade or program instruction as a whole. Instead of saying, “Wow, that teacher’s scores are horrid,” we can say, “That teacher is excelling. What are they doing that others can emulate?” Taking even a broader look, we can see how kids are progressing vertically in each subject area. If we save these sheets, we can look at data over time.

    Download a spreadsheet template and then modify to fit the data your school has available.

     

    Not Just Numbers

    Elementary school principal Matt Wachel recently shared a strategy for making sure data is about more than assessments and numbers. He said, “Our staff put dots next to each student they had a personal connection with. Those students with few dots became a focus for us.” Similarly, students on The Spreadsheet with no activities or supports are cause for concern; are they not being supported adequately? Are they not being offered additional programming to suit their needs or interests? What is happening at home, are there barriers to participation we should be aware of?

    Fasee Sollars, elementary assistant principal, said they put student pictures right along with the data as they review. Keeping that cute little face in mind when you are talking helps keep the focus on who’s important and what you are working for. Consider keeping track of families that have been contacted for a positive interaction or a log of parent communication as a key data point.

     

    Reviewing Data

    What are you going to do with all this data? Ideally teachers examine their own data and then come together to talk about the highlights, challenges, and solutions with grade level teams and vertical teams. We informally check for understanding all day long, and keeping an eye on what students are telling us through their scores, work, and attendance speaks loudly. Data dives can be a great chance to go deeper, bounce ideas and best practices around with fellow teachers, specialists, support staff, and administration.

    When reviewing data, some norms can come in handy. Great Professional Learning CommunitiesData Reflection set some ground rules and my favorite is “presume positive intent.” We are looking at data to find out what we’ve done well and where we can improve instruction. This is supposed to be supportive and focus on solutions. That can’t happen if we become guarded and presume people are out to judge us. A handy form that keeps me focused and solutions-oriented is simple and easy to use. Take a moment to celebrate what’s going well (and even some growth is an achievement), then see what needs to improve. Remember to focus on what you can control and then make a plan. Writing that plan down and having a date for follow up, even if it’s just a quick check with a trusted coworker, can help keep you focus on what’s important.

     

    More Options

    I could fill a book with the data records that I’ve used in every subject, both formally and informally. I included the two that I feel give me the most bang for my buck in this post, but others can be helpful depending on your needs and focus.

    Don’t be afraid of data. Don’t let data get you down. Use continuous, formative, summative, and informal data about all aspects of your students and their learning to be your guide and they will never steer you wrong.

     

    Follow Me @bamameghan | Subscribe to the RSS Feed

    @bamameghan    RSS Meghan Everette

     

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