Raise your hand if you feel like data is a dirty word? Data meetings, data interventions, data analysis… Let’s face it, for the most part, that word can stir up some negative feelings in teachers, families, and students alike. However, the emotions sparked from that d-word could be more about knowledge, power, and growth… if we focus our perspective on what data can do for teachers, families, and students alike.
I’m kind of a data nerd. I find great joy in creating graphs, charts, and color-coded spreadsheets. I love looking at how my students have grown over time, especially when it comes to the MAP Growth test from NWEA. If you are not familiar, MAP Growth testing measures student progress over time. Testing can begin as young as kindergarten and keep track of a child’s growth through high school. The assessment itself is personalized because it adjusts the level of questions based on a student’s response. They get the question right, the next one is harder; they get it wrong, the next one is easier. Therefore, we get a true picture of a child’s skills at that point during the school year.
The information you can obtain from these tests is endless. If you let it, it can take hours to look at all the possible reports and breakdowns, which is why I try to focus on a few different tools throughout the year, always knowing that I can get even more information if needed.
So, what do I use, and how do I use it? Here’s what a typical school year looks like for me.
In the fall, with my students, I share the Student Goal Setting Worksheet. These colored bar graphs allow them to see their current level, as well as give them a goal to work toward. We discuss the green and yellow categories. I explain that the green are areas of strength, and the yellow are areas to improve. I also send this report home for families to look at before our first conference.
In addition to the Student Goal Setting Worksheet, I send home the Student Progress Report (some more color-coded bar graphs!) because it allows families to see their child’s progress for as long as they have been taking MAP Growth. It also provides comparisons to district and national norms.
During our first family conference, I pull up the MAP Student Profile on my laptop. This color-coded line graph gives families another way to look at their child’s progress over time.
The last report I focus on in the fall is Class Breakdown by Projected Proficiency. This table gives you information about which students are at risk for not meeting grade-level norms based on our state’s standardized testing system. I do not believe in teaching to ANY kind of test, but this information helps me know, from the start of the year, who may require different interventions in order to get them up to, and hopefully even above, grade level.
In the winter, we take our second round of MAP Growth. Before the assessment, I remind my students of their fall level, and tell them today is about doing better than their Fall Self. The goal is to show personal growth. After the assessments are completed, I look at – and send home – the same reports I used in the fall: Student Goal Setting Worksheet and Student Progress Report.
In addition, I have my students use the Student Goal Setting Worksheet to actually set a goal. At this point in the year, I know my students really well, they are more in tune with themselves as learners, and they are ready to look ahead to the second semester and set specific goals for improvement. Then, I share these goals with families.
In the spring, I again analyze the same reports and celebrate with my students when they see a bar graph that shows their progress over the course of the school year. We also talk about what else can be done if their scores did not go up, or if (and it happens) they went down.
But my favorite report in the spring is that Class Breakdown by Projected Proficiency because it reminds me of the work that still needs to be done before my students leave my classroom and go on to middle school. I use this information to make instructional decisions and plan final interventions in those last weeks of the school year. Spring testing does not mean the school year is over. It just means that day has past, and now it is time for more learning opportunities. Use that data, in the good sense of the word, and continue to push your students to grow in those final weeks of school… The next year’s teacher will thank you.