Using Data Wisely

Teresa Marchant

As educators, we are constantly told that schools need to make “data-based decisions.” When I hear these words, my mind immediately flashes back to Grad School, sitting in my statistics class. This is where I learned about this concept and that the information we gather from assessments allows us to generate subsets of numbers. Generally, school administrators look for the overall school performance, class information, and individual students’ scores to help determine the implementation of new programs, allocate resources, and staffing.

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As learning standards are revised on a state and local level, it becomes necessary to review the current resources available. Classes or grade levels may “pilot” a new program to see if it improves student learning. Recently, my district adopted new ELA materials. After a review was performed by the Curriculum Director and received approval from the administration, the School Leadership Team (made up of teachers from each grade level) was given the responsibility to help with the implementation of this program. Each grade level decided how to use the materials and then reported to the team at the next monthly meeting. This process helped demonstrate the fidelity of this program. It will be interesting to see the results from the implementation in our end-of-year testing.

 

Mid-Year testing is another data collection point to help implement interventions for individual students. At this point, we identified students needing additional reading and math support. This allowed us to target instruction for students in reading groups in specific areas such as fluency, comprehension, or phonemic awareness. For math, we added a staff member, a math coach, to help with core instruction, vet resources, and support struggling students. In addition, our Gifted and Talented staff could use the data to determine if additional students could qualify for the “AP” program.

Understanding that each student is unique and has various skills to offer to their classroom community allows us to provide individual instruction and meet their needs. As we plan instruction, teachers will need to build relationships to meet the diverse learning needs of our students. This is also an essential piece of data that isn’t generated with standardized tests.

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End-of-year testing will be here before we know it. The data we gather from it will help identify student learning gaps. These gaps may have occurred due to Covid, remote learning, or something else. Regardless of the causes, we must fill these gaps. Providing summer school, tutoring opportunities, or even reteaching concepts will ensure student success. Through the use of covid relief monies, our district has implemented several after-school programs to foster learning opportunities and tutoring.

 Students will continue to need support when those dollars run out, but building a culture that uses the data wisely will help staff better meet the district’s needs, classes, and students. As we continue to identify struggling, proficient, and high-achieving students, we must realize that our students are more than a test score.

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