19 November 2005

Another Take on Using Data

Not so long ago, another department at central office was interested in sending four of us "curriculum specialists" to Denver in order to take a "Data Teams Training." Due to some office politics, we didn't go. This was a good choice because it was a lot less expensive to pay for one airline ticket, one hotel room, and one person's time to come here and present the information. Also, a lot more people than just four could attend.

Yesterday was the big day. This particular training compliments the book all of the admins in the district are reading for their lit circle (one I have also been asked to participate with). Almost every building was represented by an admin yesterday. The thing is, the "Data Team" idea is really about teachers. Only one school had teachers there: my school. I was able to secure three subs and my principal was able to find three volunteers to go.

The process is fairly simple in many ways. First, teachers (in groups of 3 - 10) look at some data on their students in order to identify an area of weakness. A pre-assessment is developed and administered to the students. The team of teachers meets to look at the information from the assessment to specifically identify which kids are "proficient," which are not, and why. The group then writes a SMART goal (or two) focusing on a reasonable increase in student performance. From there, two to three instructional strategies are selected which will help more students become proficient. Teachers commit to using the strategies a specific number of times and for a certain period of time during a class over the course of ~two weeks. A post-assessment is given and results determined. This cycle would occur several times during a school year.

I can't adequately condense the full-day training into this space, but I think the process has a lot of potential. Identification of good leaders at the building level is critical. Schools will need to involve their resource people (such as me) in order to educate and model for teachers what best practices involve. I liked what we heard because it's "small." Groups are just looking at one target and a short period of time. At the secondary level, this might not mean using data from all the students a teacher has---but rather just one class period. It's all doable.

I was very pleased that the teachers who came from my school felt like their time was well spent. One even said it was the best thing he'd attended in several years. I hope that they can sustain and spread this enthusiasm. Our kids need that.

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