So, today was another day of professional development. It was on DDI (Data Driven Instruction). After getting lost on the way (par for the course!) I made it! I have to say that this topic is something that is a bit out of my comfort zone. However, it is very important. We do need to look at data to drive our instruction. After today and after some of the workshops I attended in Georgia, I am not as afraid. I can handle this challenge and be an effective member of my districts data team (thinking positively here folks). Taking this as a new adventure in my life.
What I liked about today’s Data Boot Camp (that is what they called it, and it does make sense and is a great title!) is that we are focusing on the wrong data. We need to change school culture and educate parents to understand this. Again, it all goes back to Georgia. Let’s face it…the only data that is ever reported in the media is what people? State test data!!! I don’t know about where you are, but we had a lot of parents opt-out their child. However, I truly feel that it was for the wrong reason. That is due to the media. As I have said before – I do NOT have a problem with the Common Core Standards. I actually like them. Where I have a big problem is how the modules were rolled out. It seems as though they put the cart before the horse. But, I do NOT mind the Common Core Standards. I feel they are very good and make sense! This is where we have to change the culture. This is something that we are going to try to do this year. We want to have more parent nights to talk about how they are not scary and they do make sense. We need to make the parents understand that they are not scary. We also need to get parents to understand that state test data is ONLY ONE PIECE! Hopefully, we can accomplish that. I would appreciate your prayers on that one! It is a big step and a big challenge, but it needs to be done if we want to work as a team to help all children succeed.
What I also liked about this conference was it talked about how, in all honesty, it is your summative and formative assessments that give you immediate feedback. This is what you can look at and use to help drive your instruction. You see, state test data does not really do a good job of that. State test data is out after the school year is over. What it does give you is trends. If you really want to use data to drive your instruction you need to use many forms. At our school, we just started using STAR this year. It was a learning experience, but I do believe that it was accurate to a certain point. It was accurate in telling me which students needed urgent intervention, should be on watch, and were doing well. Overall, I found that true. To be honest, those of us from my district who were at this professional development training today, we said that there is so much information on STAR that we have not had a chance to really look at it all. We hope to get a bit more training in that. That program has so many graphs and interventions it was amazing. I know myself, that I could spend a few hours on the site clicking around on different students, class charts, etc. It did give me lots of information. This information could be used right away to help drive their instruction. This was true especially when it came time to do guided reading groups. One thing you have to understand is that your groups will change. I always had kids moving around depending on how well they did on certain book levels, looking at their benchmarks, progress monitoring, etc. However, I also used other reading assessments (quizzes on their guided reading books and novels), observations listening to them read, or their written responses to questions they had to answer based on their guided reading books. Today, I felt a bit more reassured when the presenters said that this is the real data that you can get fairly quickly. This is good data that you really need to look at to drive your instruction.
As you know, this year we are going to be using Lucy Calkins Units of Study for our writing. I am excited about that. We were saying today how that will give us some good data as well. It requires the students to do on demand assessments, both at the beginning of a unit and at the end of a unit. Then, it gives you rubrics to use to assess. The most important part of this, is that you have to establish norms so that your entire school is on the same page and you are accurately using that rubric. It is a holistic rubric – which makes more sense. Again, this data will drive you instruction so you will know what kids to group when doing small group conference groups, as well as what to talk about in your individual conferences with students. This is good data!
We also used STAR for math this year. I will admit I did not use it that much. The reason, is because we went to using our state Common Core Modules. We are just now getting used to that, and I am not quite sure if the STAR is aligned to our modules. It is something we want to look at. However, I did look at the data after my kids took the STAR math benchmarks. I found it fairly accurate in terms of which kids were struggling with math or were doing well. The problem was that we really could not do a lot of differentiated math instruction. Common Core math is a whole new way of thinking mathematically. All of the kids have to learn this process, so we focused mostly on whole group instruction. At the end of the day, during extra center and/or read to self time, I would try to pull kids who were struggling. Or during work time after doing whole group math, I would pull kids who were struggling to give them extra help. We did say today that we seem to focus so much on reading that we can’t ignore math.
Basically, what I liked about today is they really focused on the fact that we need to focus on the summative and formative assessments. These are our unit tests, tickets out the door, book tests, quick checks, etc. We need to look at STAR as it immediately gives you results. Plus, you need to have the kids involved and looking at their own data. This helps make them more accountable for their learning, as well as keep their motivation up. At one workshop, one of the administrators said that at their school – the kids actually graph their own data. That way it is available to them and they can see if they have made progress or if they have slipped a bit. Plus, she said they are learning math by doing the graphing. The graph was relevant, as it related to their learning. We need to share the data with the students. I really liked that. I did show my kids their STAR graph after they took the reading tests on it. We focused on if the line went up or down. However, we made it positive. It was wow, your graph is going up, look at where you are now. You are growing as a reader. When they went down, it was well you went down. We will try again next time and we know we have to work a bit harder. You do have to make it a bit positive.
This day also really reiterated what I came back fired up about after I came back from Georgia. We need to change our school culture. We need to have data teams that include teachers, administrators, Board of Education members, and community members. Schools make up a big part of the towns and villages. We need to work together. The children are our future, so it is important that we all take part in that. The presenters said to have visible data graphs available for people to see. That is also something that we decided today.
So, I am not so afraid of data now. I have my work cut out for me. I will be reading a book on Data Driven Instruction. Also, I will be getting more training. I am going to take this opportunity as a new adventure. I have never been a member of a data team. I think now is the time. I am a bit of a nerd and like to look at data. However, I am never quite sure what to do with it. It seems every year we used to look at state test data only. I would say that is great, but this is old. Those kids have moved on. Now, we know what we need to really focus on. Hopefully this year those of us chosen to be on this team – hopefully we will accomplish lots! We do know that we will have to change the culture and take baby steps. It is important that you try to get everyone on board. We said today at the end, that is going toe hard to do at our district. However, we are all up the challenge!
What are your feelings on data? Anyone out there ever been on a data team? What were your experiences? I would love to hear! Do you have any words of wisdom? Let’s work together on this! Thanks for reading!