Notice this section is Step 1: Assessing the Present State because the teachers:
At Para Los Estudiantes, an elementary school in an urban district with an enrollment of primarily English language learners, the teachers understand that one of the most important ways they can be effective in the classroom is to gather and utilize data about how student learning is progressing. These teachers view data use as a way of life.
When you ask the teachers what contributes to making data use a way of life, they cite the support for data use from leadership at the district and school level to learn the necessary skills to collect and analyze data and set goals and targets based on their analyses. This support, combined with their individual commitments to data use, means that the teachers can engage in the continuous process of data use to inform the decisions they make about how to improve student learning.
At Para Los Estudiantes, the teachers regularly and consistently use a range of assessments for different purposes. They have a district-wide database that stores assessment results as well as demographic, opportunity to learn, and survey data. Their assessments include:
The fourth-grade teachers at Para Los Estudinates understand the principles of sound assessment. As the grade level leader, Ms. Ross says, “We understand from our reading of Knowing What Students Know that “one size does not fit all” and that anything we select from our assessment tool box needs to be appropriate to purpose. One of the most important things we have learned related to purpose is that an assessment must measure what it is intended to measure. This is a key issue in validity, so we are very careful when we select assessment tools. Whatever they are, the tools must measure what we intend them to measure.
We are also well aware that any assessment needs to be aligned to learning goals. Using our learning progression, we can be clear about the learning goals, decide what increment of instruction we want to assess, and select the appropriate tool. In addition, we want all of our assessments to be fair and enable our children to show what they know. For instance, we have to ensure that the complexity of language in math assessments does not inhibit our population of English Language Learners from showing what they understand about mathematics. Finally, need to ensure that the assessments provide sufficient detail so as to enable us to take action for learning.
It is the middle of June, and the fourth-grade teachers at Para Los Estudiantes are meeting to prepare for the upcoming school year. The teachers, who are gathered around a table in the teacher’s lounge, are examining a report they generated from their district-wide database. They are looking to answer the question: “How well did this year’s third grade students perform on the statewide reading assessment?” The report they review includes a descriptive analysis (A descriptive analysis provides a summary description of all students’ performance on the statewide reading test, including scoring at each proficiency level, mean and/or median, and range.). The teachers note that while a small percentage of their incoming fourth-grade students score in the advanced and proficient categories for reading, the majority of students score in the basic and below basic categories. Already, the teachers have a sense of the work cut out for them in the coming school year and are anxious to get more detailed information to help them understand student needs.
The teacher leading the meeting, Ms. Ross, then proposes that they answer the question: “How well did the third-grade students perform, by proficiency level, on the subscales of the statewide test?” Her colleagues agree, and she quickly queries the database. Ms. Ross knows that answering the question about proficiency levels will involve another descriptive analysis, so she selects an appropriate report to display the information. Soon the teachers are looking at reports of student performance levels by subscales--i.e., different components of the test.
The teachers determine from the reports that students who scored at the basic and below basic levels performed well in word analysis but were weaker in vocabulary and reading comprehension. Ms. Ross says, “Let’s look at the student scores on the school’s quarterly district reading inventory to see how much progress these students made over the year and to see if the same patterns show up as we see on the state test subscales.” The teachers query the database; this time their question is: “How did students who are at the basic and below basic levels on the statewide tests perform on the quarterly district reading inventory?” The teachers are fortunate to have reliable data from the quarterly assessment to track performance over the course of the year on the same subscales as the state reading test. Their analysis, on this occasion, requires the teachers to look at student performance over time on repeated occasions and to compare one data point to another. They select a line graph to display this comparative data. Looking at this graph, the teachers notice again that while student vocabulary and comprehension skills improved over the previous school year, the growth of these skills was still slower than growth in word analysis skills. Ms. Ross thinks aloud, “I wonder why this is the case?” Her question prompts a discussion among the teachers about their concern that the current reading program does not give sufficient attention to vocabulary development, which could in turn be impacting comprehension levels.
Barnes, F. D. (2004).Inquiry and action: Making school improvement part of daily practice. Annenberg Institute for School Reform, Brown University.Summary:
A comprehensive school-improvement guide with supplemental worksheet templates, this resource provides an overview of school improvement and a framework for using a cycle of inquiry and action, as well as descriptions of how schools have put a self-study cycle into practice by collecting, analyzing, and acting on information.How To Use:
This resource could be used to help support a cycle of inquiry supporting continuous school improvement. This tool could be used to guide teachers when they are thinking about the data use process or as a tool to include in a professional development program on data use for teachers. The worksheets could be used as part of a professional development program for teachers that includes focus on generating questions.
Love, N. (2002). Using data/getting results: A practical guide for school improvement in mathematics and science. Norwood, MA: Christopher-Gordon Publishers, Inc.Summary:
The purpose of this book is to explain how to use data to foster school improvement. Love begins by discussing collaborative inquiry and the use of data to support reform and better practices and offers potential guidelines for designing databases to store data. Next, she explores data analysis, addressing many types of data that may be available to educators (e.g., standardized test results, student class work, etc.), and then discusses curriculum and assessment decisions that result from data analysis. Love explains how to disaggregate data by race/ethnicity, class, gender, and English-language proficiency and how to examine policies and staff practices that might indicate prejudice and might challenge efforts to promote equity. Additionally, each chapter ends with a list of resources for further exploration. Appendices include samples of surveys, self assessments, tools for examining state and district assessment results, interview protocols for interviews with students, ways to evaluate and rate text books, and numerous other resources for educators to use. This guide is designed for educators new to the use of data and those working to create school wide efforts to use data to support instructional improvements and foster educational reform.How To Use:
Teacher and administrators could use this book to help devise school-wide goals based on findings from data analysis. Tools included in the appendices could also be used to monitor progress towards goals. This book could be used as a focus for a series of discussions at the teacher, school, and district level about the inquiry process for using data. School-level administrators could also use it to support the classroom by identifying the key elements for establishing a professional development program for teachers' skillful use of data.