Sunday, October 19, 2014

So Much Data!

Data driven instruction is where its at. You give the assessment, analyze the data, find the strengths and weaknesses, and reteach/remediate based on your findings. It's a cyclical process.

A few weeks ago, I was having a conversation with the math department chair, and we were discussing this process as we were laying the groundwork to help guide teachers in their development of growth goals for the coming school year. The process for this practice has traditionally been to look at the previous years' assessment data for last years students to determine the instructional focus for this year.

This process, however, has a flaw. What about results pertaining to the students you have this year? What about the progress those students made last year? What about what they are missing? Is that data important? Of course it is!

I did some serious thinking on the topic, and came up with this:

  • Year-end assessment data is valuable. It's probably more valuable for teachers though. However, full state assessment data isn't usually available until mid July, and by that time, teachers are well into their summer vacation. In most cases, they don't even see this data until August when they are stressing about a new batch of students and getting their classrooms ready. If teachers are provided with this data before they left of the summer, they could develop a plan to address their own instructional weaknesses during the summer.  
  • Pre-assessment data is also valuable. It's a valuable tool to help teachers determine what the students don't know. If teachers don't know their own weaknesses, however, how do they know if they are adequately prepared to reach this new group of students? 
  • It is still relatively difficult to access and pull apart assessment data. For example, I spent a good deal of my Sunday afternoon trying to figure out what our exceptional education students were struggling with on our state assessment tests. I could easily find out what our entire school was struggling with, but that doesn't help me when I need to focus on specific subgroups or classes. What's up with that?
I feel pretty comfortable with saying that we are in a better pace with instructional data than we were even a few years ago, but there is still a long way to go. Why should we have to wait until mid July to obtain data that would help teachers grow as professionals. In addition, the data we are using should also be able to tell us a little bit more than it currently does. I think of data I encounter in everyday life: my credit card statement, the gauges on my car, all those infographics I find on the Internet, and even my Starbucks app...they are all easier than what the majority of us are asking teachers to make sense of.

I've said this before, it is my responsibility as an administrator to make sure the teachers I work with have the tools the need to be successful. This includes providing access to data that doesn't take hours to unpack and understand. Until the data comes to us in a more straightforward format, I need to make sure it gets that way before it gets in the hands of the teachers. This way, they will have more time to create meaningful and impactful lessons based on what that data tells them.

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