Raquel Maya Carson is a DQC teacher fellow. This is the last of a series of blog posts that examine education data use in the classroom.
I’ve learned that the amount of time you dedicate to thoughtfully planning something greatly increases your outcomes. Whether it is a writing project for my students or a dinner party I am hosting for friends, planning times equates confidence and preparedness. However, when it comes to thinking about planning with and communicating education data, I am often faced with more questions than I have answers for.
Planning Time: When are teachers expected to organize and analyze the student data they are collecting or presented with? How much time can be dedicated during the school day, or as paid afterschool time, to thoughtfully plan and modify instruction based on the data? It is essential to have meaningful time to plan out when you are going to be able to analyze student data and how you are going to modify your instruction. School leaders need to ensure that time is carved out in schedules to allow for teacher teams to actually engage in the planning of data-driven lessons. For education data to be ingrained in the school culture, it needs to be given priority.
Consider dedicating one planning period a week to a professional learning community dedicated to analyzing student work and collaboratively planning using data. EngageNY provides school and teacher leaders with detailed resources on creating a culture of data, including sample meeting agendas, student work analysis templates, and case studies. Another good place for schools and teacher teams to look for guidance on how to more effectively structure data team meetings is the Maryland Department of Education’s toolkit on examining student work.
Communicating: How can I most effectively share student data with my students’ families? What should the visuals look like? Which data points should I share? DQC’s infographic Ms. Bullen’s Data-Rich Year shows the fictional teacher communicating relevant information with the student and family five times throughout the year. It isn’t enough to simply present the data to families. We need to help them digest it with simple explanations and graphics that get the point across. The bottom line is that most families, who are critical stakeholders in student achievement, don’t necessarily understand the value of our “data-driven” craze. It is our job as educators to explain to families why understanding their child’s data is critical. For example, we often share with families what their child’s reading level is, but how often do we explain that knowing the level can help them identify appropriate texts at the library?
I love sharing data with students and families! There is little more invigorating than having a student see how many reading levels they have grown during the year. One of my goals as an educator next year is to make our classroom data more accessible to our families on a daily basis. This is a trend across classrooms nationwide, teachers creating kid- and family-friendly ways to track student data. (Evidence of these fabulous ideas can be found on Pinterest by searching for “data walls.”) Of course, we have to be mindful about how we are sharing students’ data in our classrooms, ensuring our focus is motivating students to meet personal achievement goals. I would never want a data display to promote unnecessary competition or make my students feel insecure.
Data are invaluable to improving student outcomes and instruction, and as a teacher I have questions about how to best collect, analyze, and communicate them. Meaningfully and thoughtfully being data-driven in the classroom is an ongoing part of professional development. It is a process and a way of thinking that teachers need to be invested in and supported to effectively implement.