Three Strategies for Fostering Positive Relationships with Data

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Kasi Miller |

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“The word ‘data’ has the potential to make even the most seasoned teacher break out in a sweat, like the kid sitting in the back who forgot there was a summative assessment today.”

– Sarah Beachkofsky, 8th grade ELA teacher, Beaufort County School District, South Carolina

For many teachers, “data” is still a four-letter word. But not at Beaufort County School District in South Carolina.

3 strategies for fostering positive relationships with student data #edchat #MAPtest“When we first implemented MAP® over twelve years ago, we were just happy to have a mean score and an end of year target,” said Daniel Fallon, Director of Data Services. “Now, our use of the data is much more sophisticated, and we test three times per year in grades 3-8. This year, the district administration considered reducing testing to just twice a year, but the teachers actually pushed back and demanded that we offer MAP testing in the spring, as well.”

That’s right – the teachers of Beaufort County demanded an extra interim assessment. While it’s easy to chalk this level of enthusiasm for interim assessments up to sheer wizardry, we wanted to know how the district is fostering an environment in which student data informs instruction, positively impacts student growth, and instills confidence in its teaching staff. Here are their top three strategies for empowering teachers to make the most of their data, despite myriad changes to the educational landscape in South Carolina, from ESSA to a new state assessment.

Strategy #1 – Spread the Gospel of Growth

Brooke Rowe is not only the district’s Data Support Coordinator – she’s also a former classroom teacher with first-hand understanding of the demands of the job. “The main reason MAP is valuable to me and our teachers is it allows us to focus on student growth. Not every child will perform at grade level, but the important thing we want teachers to be thinking about, is making sure their students are growing… our teachers understand that the data is not being used to evaluate them, but rather to inform their practice as an educator. They get the student results immediately, they can see the knowledge gaps, and they can act right away by providing targeted instruction.”

Strategy #2 – Make the Reporting Work for YOU

“Data. Driven. Analysis. Those three words have the potential to destroy any ELA teacher’s day, right?” joked Sarah Beachkofsky, 8th grade ELA teacher. “[MAP] has allowed me, regardless of course, section, level, or grade, the ability to pull the pertinent data about my students and their academic achievement so I can target my instruction to best meet their needs.”

“The Class Report …[is] a short, easy-to-read document that provides me with students’ RIT levels, and shows their relative strengths and growths areas. In the past two years, the information from this report pinpointed the grade-wide strand that the ELA department needed to focus on strengthening.” The result? Beachkofsky’s school had the highest growth in the district at the 7th grade level in 2016.

The Achievement Status and Growth (ASG) Report is also essential to the district’s instructional planning. “Many teachers were initially overwhelmed with reading and analyzing the data. When the ASG Summary was introduced to them, it changed their outlook on how to use data in the classroom. This visual report allows them to immediately see where their students are and how they are progressing,” said middle school instructional coach Kim Stanziola.

Strategy #3 – Don’t Leave Standards to Chance

Many districts across the state are still adapting to the new SC Ready assessment, introduced in December 2016. When the unpredictable nature of state standards reared its head late last year, Beaufort brought the first two strategies together, combining Rowe’s guidance and support with the right MAP reports and resources.

“Thanks to the new NWEA MAP-SC Ready projection chart, plus Brooke’s on-site training, I was able to see that many of my students are now projected to perform at a higher level on SC Ready this spring. The latest MAP to SC Ready correlation has proven incredibly valuable. I can reflect on student growth, and how it is projected to impact the students’ overall achievement,” said Beachkofsky. “In the past, since our state test changed numerous times, it was a bit like a hope and prayer that what we had been teaching would connect with that year’s new state assessment.”

Which of these strategies is your team already using? What’s one thing you’re inspired to try next? Join our community at NWEA Connection to chat with other leaders and educators.

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