Supporting social, emotional, and academic achievement requires schools to know their students and their systems well, and to do this, data is crucial.
If your team is struggling to use data to make decisions, here are the top three reasons why:
Reason 1: You’re making it too hard.
Collecting data takes time and resources. Increase the likelihood that you’ll get good data by taking time to plan the least invasive way to measure what you want to know.
|Question||Hard Way||Simpler Way|
|Are teachers using the new science curriculum?||“Let’s conduct daily walkthroughs, complete a checklist, and compile all 21 items onto a spreadsheet.”||“During recess for the next three Wednesdays, I’m going to ask five kids at lunch if they had a science lesson this week from the new adoption.”|
|Do students feel safe at school?||“I think three 1/2 day focus groups with staff, teachers, and students ought to do it.”||“There’s a free climate survey available through PBISApps.org. Let’s start there and see what patterns come up.|
|Does our school need dramatic reform and change?||“Well, only 34% are proficient on the state tests, so clearly we need to completely transform our practice.”||“The average scaled score for grade 5 was 1345 on the state test. That is 16 scaled score points away from proficient. Let’s see which of our students has the most opportunity to grow and find out what targeted interventions might help.”|
Reason 2: Your measures aren’t sensitive enough.
It’s beautiful to see my three children grow throughout the year. I’ve got their heights marked on their bathroom door frame. And, if I measured that growth in yards rather than inches, I’d be waiting a long time to see any change.
Schools often use yardsticks to measure changes that happen in inches. For example, standardized test results are often reported in terms of percent passing. While percent passing data is the measure most often used to hold schools accountable, it is also the least useful information to use when school and district leaders are making instructional decisions.
Here’s why. Take a look at the chart below. In this school, three fourth grade teachers decided that 70% or better was a passing score on a benchmark test. That means that in Classroom A and Classroom B, 0% of students passed, while in Classroom C, 41% of students passed. So Classroom C is the winner, right?
Not so fast…Instead of looking at how many students passed the test, let’s look at how well they actually performed. While no one in Classroom B passed the test, Classroom B and Classroom C have the same average percent correct. Finally (and most importantly), while students in Classroom A had the lowest average percent correct, nearly half of Classroom Cs students were among the lowest scoring students among all three classes.
Bottom Line: What needs to happen in each classroom is completely different, and we can figure out what to do when we use measures sensitive to changes in student learning.
Reason 3: You’re not telling anyone about your data.
Now that you’ve got 1) a simple to use plan to get the data you want, and 2) a measure sensitive enough to changes in student learning, you’ll need 3) a plan for sharing that data in real time or as close to real time as possible.
|Question||Simple / Sensitive Data Collection||Communicated by…|
|Are teachers using the new science curriculum?||“During recess for the next three Wednesdays, let’s ask five kids at lunch if they had a science lesson this week from the new adoption.”||“On Wednesday afternoon, let’s share what percentage of students reported having a science lesson from the new adoption at our staff meeting.”|
|Do students feel safe at school?||“There’s a free climate survey available through PBISApps.org. Let’s start there and see what patterns come up.||“Once the survey closes, let’s create a summary report with the most relevant graphs and share it with staff the next day. We can process the data more in our team meetings.”|
|Does our school need dramatic reform and change?||“The average scaled score for grade 5 was 1345 on the state test. That is 16 scaled score points away from proficient. Let’s see which of our students has the most opportunity to grow and find out what targeted interventions might help.”||“We just got back our state standardized test results. We were 16 scaled score points away from proficient, and now we’re only 1. We’re not at passing yet, but we should celebrate that growth!”|
The power of sharing data is in building a shared understanding of what is happening within a school or district. Especially when schools focus on choosing data tools that are simple to use and sensitive to small changes, communicating the data as it changes helps everyone understand what is working, how well, and why.
If you or your team in interested in learning more about how to get the most out of your data, click here to contact me.
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