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Saturday, August 27, 2016

Teach Well: Data Analysis

As a fan of streamlined standardized testing, I like what the data can tell us about the landscape of our class. Recently Massachusetts released a host of data to educators--data we can use, in part, to plan our programs so that we tailor our efforts to individual students, small groups, and the whole grade-level team.

I used the data to color code our class list so that we can easily sort the data in a number of ways to help us analyze the work that we're doing and the work that needs to be done in order to help every child achieve a strong foundation in the basics with good ability to read, write, and solve mathematical problems.

I always emphasize my support for standardized tests with the word "streamlined" since the tests don't tell us about the whole child and they are not the complete puzzle when it comes to understanding a child or teaching a child well. Yet the state's information which includes scores and other factors helps us to see our students with new eyes and greater detail, and this view helps us to teach the children well.

Other factors that help us teach well include the following:
  • Time to get to know each child and their families at the start of the year to build strong relationships.
  • Time to understand a child's curiosity, passion, and need.
  • Frequent informal assessments including conversation and observation.
  • Significant time to learn in ways that cannot be measured by a standardized test such as activities that include trial and error, problem solving, making, and more.
  • The many ways we can coach a child forward into his/her life in positive, affirmative ways since we know that the most successful people in society are not necessarily those who performed best on an elementary school standardized test.
Teaching is never one thing or another, it's always that right mix of approaches that responds well to the context in which you teach and the children that you teach. Every school has to take the information available and create programs that inspire, engage, and forward a child's interest in learning as well as skill to learn. That's why teaching is both an art and science--it profits from data and depends on craft and vision.

How will you use the host of wonderful data Massachusetts offers educators? In what ways will your team analyze the data available and match informal systemwide measures to create programs that inspire and develop students' academic, social, and emotional skills and abilities? 

As we learn to use data better, we can also better the ways we teach each child. That's not to say that personalization in this way is sufficient since what happens when students and teachers collaborate is essential to the learning process. Learning alone is not sufficient in most cases. Collaborative, cooperative learning is also essential--there's magic when a group of learners come to the table to create, debate, and collaborate. That's integral to the learning process too.

How we approach the learning year and how we mold programs to best meet the needs of all of our students is an important consideration at this point in the school year. Massachusetts' wonderful trove of data is one source of strength with regard to this process. Let me know how you plan to access and maximize that data bank to support learners. I'm curious. 

Teach Children Well: Ride the School Bus

Emdin in his book, For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood and The Rest of Y'all Too, prompts us with good rationale to know our students well. One way to know students is to make the time to ride the bus home with students. That's one way to get to know students' neighborhoods and friendships. I'm going to try that. Seems so simple, yet potentially powerful.

Teach Well: Separate Truth from Heresay

Heresay can reign if we don't ask the right questions. Good questions/comments that can separate the truth from heresay include the following:
  • Can I take a look at the data? What does the data say?
  • How was the data analyzed? Why was that analysis strategy used? 
  • May I see that in writing so I can give it greater thought and depth?
  • What publicized facts led to that assumption?
  • Why would you say that? What evidence led you to that conclusion?
  • How many? When? Whom?
  • Let's lay out the timeline of events to show how the issue evolved?
  • How was this handled in similar circumstances?
Too often as humans we jump to conclusions or accept heresay as fact and truth when there isn't the evidence or facts to back up such assumptions.

When I read Intentional Interruption, the book demonstrated how we naturally choose comfort over truth or conjecture over reality since it's easier and more comforting. 

When teaching well we have to focus in on our students and what they need. And in doing so, we have to look at the data and find out the facts to lead us to the best possible support and effort.

In conversation about school, listen carefully. Work to separate heresay from fact and then work with honest data to develop the amazing potential that exists for every child.