I am a self-proclaimed data nerd. I admit that I have played around on Excel more than once, and I create spreadsheets just for fun. What can I say, manipulating and looking at data is pretty awesome!
Data has been on my mind a lot lately. My school is currently looking at different ways we assess students and collect student data. There is a lot of focus on Collecting The Data, and Having The Data to back up various decisions related to students, including whether or not they should receive intervention services.
I highlighted a LOT in the section of this book “Applying Responsible Assessment”, p311. I kept reading sentences and thinking “THIS is what I’ve been trying to get across to my administration!!!” The last sentence on page 311 reads “…standardized tests are big business, with publishers lobbying hard for their adoption.” I am SO skeptical about using ONE textbook or ONE assessment to determine students’ growth or knowledge. In my last post, I wrote about frontloading and how background knowledge plays such a crucial part in students’ learning. Using one test or “curriculum” limits what our students are being exposed to, as well as costing tens of thousands of dollars for often scripted lessons with assessments that don’t always tell us what we need to know.
One of my latest pet projects is trying to get a diverse set of guided reading books to use for benchmarks so that my kiddos have a more fair shot at success.
But back to data.
Ms. Routman wrote on page 312, “Question any assessment that does not ultimately benefit the learner.” How many assessments do I see given, only to flesh out a data wall or provide more “data points” for a progress monitoring form? I LOVE that in the next section, formative assessments are given the spotlight. Anecdotal notes! Conferences! Teacher-constructed quizzes! Gasp – all things that educated professionals know how to do, really well!
But can we be trusted to do that?
Sometimes I get the feeling that my anecdotal data isn’t enough – that my observations are less than acceptable, because a number can’t be attached to it. My notes can’t neatly fit onto a sticky note to fit on the Data Wall, something else discussed in this book. One of the challenges for my intervention department this year has been figuring out how best to organize student data; do we enter it into a spreadsheet, do we keep hard copies, do we share in on The Drive?
I come back to the the sentence on page 322, “…but the key is the data must ultimately lead to improving learning…” THAT is the statement that I feel should be guiding discussions about student data. After all, the students are why we teach. Sometimes it doesn’t seem that way, particularly when it’s PSSA time, or the “Bigwigs” are coming to visit, or the charter is up for renewal. But it really is all about the kids.
Last week I created a spreadsheet to do Miscue Analyses on benchmark assessments. It figures out the percent of word ending miscues due to a missed inflectional ending, and the percentage of times a student self-corrected a meaning-changing miscue. I’m very proud of it, and it’s been very helpful for me in determining what I need to work on in my small groups, as well as to figure out how far “below grade level” my students actually are. (I’m less concerned about my students missing a few inflectional endings than I am if they are unable to decode long vowel patterns in 6th grade.)
For last year’s book review blog, I titled my data post “Data, Not Just Another 4-Letter Word”. I still feel that way. Data is awesome. It’s so helpful, collected in a meaningful, deliberate way. And just like anything in education, it all comes back to the “why” – we do it for the kids.