A Quick Guide to Student Data

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This year we learned a lot about how to lead our faculty data work. In previous years, data that was presented to the faculty had already been pulled apart. The data was presented in pie charts or graphs. It was pretty and neat. However, that is not the real story of data. It’s messy and takes the time to sift through like searching for gold. It wasn’t until this year that the faculty actually dug into the data themselves and found the nuggets. This is a necessary and very significant step.

 Looking at students specific to the teacher’s curricular area and grade level makes the data more meaningful. Their reactions to the students’ reading levels and growth (or lack thereof) was eye-opening. Some of their perceptions did not match the data, but more importantly, the reasons for students’ lacking engagement, turning in assignments, or performing poorly on tests made sense.

For example, seeing that a tenth-grade student reads at a third-grade level allows the teacher to adjust their instructional strategies for that student. The data is no longer just a number or just a pretty pie chart. It is a name and a face that the teacher truly wants to help succeed.

A 40-year veteran Math teacher, probably surprised us the most of all the faculty we with. I (Rachel) was sitting in my room one day, probably a week after digging into data, and in walks the teacher. He wanted me to show him how to locate the data for his students again, target a specific class, and pinpoint the skills the individual students needed to master. He even retested his students to get the most relevant data, and he is eagerly awaiting the spring test date to see if this individualized, or personal, instruction affects his students’ learning.

We don’t want to make this sound easy; it’s not. But, it is definitely doable; it just takes some time. As teacher leaders, we know that time is something that is hard to come by in the education world, but we also know that it makes all the difference when it comes to student learning. So, if you are a teacher leader, administrator, or district supervisor, time is of the essence in improving student learning.

Questions for Teacher Leaders:

  • Do I know how to access the data that I’m looking for?

  • How will we know if we are successful-- school wide? For individual students?

  • Are we on target to meet our goal(s)?

  • Who are my target students?

  • What are the skills that my target students need most to move ahead?

  • How will/can I address the skills within my curricular area?

  • How will/can I address the needs of target students within my grade level?

Tips for School Leaders:

  1. Have a goal for working with the data.

    1. What should faculty know and be able to do?

    2. Create accountability targeted to student growth.

  2. Start with noticing and asking questions.

    1. Where is a trend? A surprise? An anomaly?

    2. What questions does that spark?

  3. Use multiple data sources to obtain a complete picture.

    1. Triangulated data (3 sources) is the benchmark.

    2. Collect and study both qualitative and quantitative data.

  4. Ensure that your data aligns to your standards.

    1. Identify the gaps between the two

    2. Use formative data to monitor progress

  5. Make sure the data is accessible.

    1. Ensure that everyone knows how to get to the data.

    2. Build an “our students” vs “my students” mentality by sharing school-wide data with faculty.

  6. Have a core group of teachers that can help their peers.

    1. Have teacher leaders from multiple contents and grade levels preview how to run reports and access the data.

    2. Those same teachers can be available to support peers between professional development events.