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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.