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How Do You Share Your Data?

"How do you feel about data?" I was asked in an interview recently. 

Given my feelings about grades and testing, the interviewer seemed to cringe for a second waiting for my clearly negative answer.

He was in for a surprise.

The same way I don't hate the Common Core because it has nothing to do with testing on its own, is the way I feel about data. If teachers are left to collect their own data in a way that makes sense for their students and then can effectively use and implement the data, why wouldn't it be a good thing?

The word "data" has become a bad word, just like "standards", but on their own, they are just things. Unfortunately, both have been linked to "bad" educational reform and have gotten a lot of heat from the media and poorly informed people.

Data is just information.

Teachers and administrators collect meaningful data all of the time. In any given classroom, I can learn how many of my students know a concept and how well, if they are capable of applying it and to what degree and with that information, future decisions can be made about the direction of the class.

It's called assessment FOR learning NOT assessment of learning. Formative assessments in class that can be any task that provides an opportunity for kids to learn and get feedback versus summative assessment which is meant to be at the end of something to see how much was learned.

Without data in my classroom, I wouldn't be able to adjust future assessments or tasks or differentiate appropriately.

However, with testing as it is now in our country, this data is somewhat useless to the current teacher. If my kids are taking state mandated tests where results aren't specifically broken down and provided to the classroom teacher before the end of the year, the data is only there for some kind of punitive measure for either the student or the teacher or the school community as a whole.

This kind of data has no use to the current classroom teacher because he/she has no opportunity to make adjustments before the next school year when a new bunch of students with different needs is before him/her.

So if only talking in terms of "good" data, how would can teachers gather and communicate the learning?

There are many options but here are a few good ones I have tried:

  • Google forms is an easy way to send out simple questions and have the answers directly from students be collected into a spreadsheet and graphs that can continue to be manipulated afterward

  • Person to person conferences with students and colleagues to discuss what is going on 

  • Written work and projects with formative feedback against standards

  • Reflection

Now that the data is collected and shared with the teacher, it needs to be communicated with the parents/students or other teachers. This can be done with online data systems like formerly known as Skedula when I used it (which is what our school and many in NYC use).

This year I've worked closely with them to use their platform for standards based assessment moving away from the traditional and providing more precise feedback to students and their parents based on the work they are doing. Since they also have an app now, kids are notified and so are parents if they sign up immediately when new information is shared.

As I continue to shift my practice, they continue to help me communicate it better, then students can collect their own best work and develop e-portfolios to show their growth at the end of the year in lieu of final testing.

So data doesn't have to be a dirty word. It can be a useful means of developing better learning so long as it is the right data presented in a meaningful way to forward learning instead of just collecting data to show what has or hasn't be learned to hurt people involved.

How do you collect and use data in your classes? Please share

  • post originally ran on my Ed Week Teacher blog in May 2015

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