Sunday, November 24, 2013

Using Student Data

This year, we are focusing on data more than ever.  I feel that we are constantly asked, "What does the data tell us?"  Whether working on professional growth plans, student learning objectives, planning lessons, or informally discussing a student, data is a critical component of the conversation.  This has made me think, what is student data? It is more than test scores...
Student data is student work. Some examples include:
  • responses in reading notebooks (from independent reading or read aloud)
  • sticky notes / stop-and-jots (from independent reading or read aloud)
  • discussions within book clubs
  • notes we take during conferences
  • reading logs
  • on demand writing
During this first trimester, I have been meeting with teams a few times per month to look at student data and determine their "Stars" and "Steps" (strengths and next steps).  It has been interesting to discuss the variety of data brought to the table from kindergarten samples to fourth grade samples.  Often times, at this point in the school year, my kindergarten teachers are bringing their anecdotal notes.  Where as, other grade levels might bring student stop-and-jots or written responses. 

Something I have learned through this is that if we are using our anecdotal notes as our data, it is important to stay close to the actual data and try to not just use what we thought we saw in the classroom.  This supports the importance for taking anecdotal notes during conferences.  One way to maintain the use of data in our anecdotal notes is to consider the unit's essential questions or learning objectives while conferring.  In a recent kindergarten unit, the students were working on voice-print-match.  This was one of their teaching points.   During the week, some of the notes that were taken during conferences reflected this learning target for the unit.  Teachers were able to reflect on their anecdotal notes for students to determine who was on target, almost on target, or off target in regards to this learning objective.

It is also important to be sure that when you collect student samples, the data collected reflects an important, essential skill for that unit.  It should be a skill that you could envision yourself pulling a small group or following up with a student to offer extra guidance and support in the teaching point.  If you are unsure of which teaching points are "essential",  use the CCSS to help you find direction.  Some units of study offer essential questions for each section or bend of the unit.  If this is the case, I would highly recommend that you always collect some student data around those questions.

Once data is collected, we sort the samples.  Often, we use literacy learning progressions that were created using targets from the CCSS.  If the learning progression is not applicable, we sort samples according to how students are meeting expectation: Exceeding, Meeting, Approaching, Not Meeting.  We then have conversations focusing on next steps for a group.  Effective discussions often focus on how to set up a strategy lesson for a specific group to help students meet the learning target. 

Some next steps I see for our groups is to follow up with the actions plans discussed.  For example, if a teacher decides to use a strategy lesson with a group of students to help them reach the learning objective, we should collect samples following the strategy lesson to see how much growth has been made. 

I am proud to work in an environment where we have time to meet as colleagues, talk about what our students are producing, how to continue to push their learning forward.  Though our curriculum outlines teaching points within units of study, teachers are able to use student data to make decisions based on how to differentiate and best meet the needs of the diverse learners in their rooms.  This, to me, is one of the most exciting aspects of teaching.

I would love to hear what student data you use or plan on using.  If you have more ideas, please comment!