This year when I shared my analysis with a few people I met with pushback. Some did not agree with my findings and others challenged the work I do. I've thought deeply about the pushback and challenge, and believe that if people really cared deeply about how the data is assessed they would meet with me and others with an open mind and good time to look deeply at the data, but it seems to me that some are not interested in a deeper dive or more open conversation related to what translates to good teaching and learning with regard to the data.
That's not a huge problem since our students do very well overall and the areas for growth are mostly specific and singular issues, and these attitudes and responses do not happen in all arenas of school life. While I know my analyses aren't perfect, I also know that my work is good as I've been doing this kind of analysis for years, and my efforts to teach well have improved over that time. To do better, requires deep, honest, open conversation and collaboration. Unfortunately where top-down hierarchies rule, there is little opportunity for this kind of open growth and development. That does not exist everywhere thankfully which does leave opportunity to develop and grow in ways that are meaningful and beneficial.
There are many ways to look at data. There are also many factors that contribute to the data. For example when you look at math data, the following factors matter:
- readiness for learning math--students who play with legos, blocks, board games, drawing, creativity and more are generally more ready for math learning than those who don't get to creatively play often.
- attitude towards math--in homes where math is met with enthusiasm and an excitement for learning, children typically do better than in homes where people fear or disdain math.
- engaging math practice and math learning -- in situations where students have had a solid engaging, meaningful math background, those students learn better.
- health, attendance, social-emotional readiness for learning - students who are healthy, attend school regularly, and have a positive social-emotional readiness for learning, do better.
- apt support - since most schools today are full inclusion schools, we rely on the regular support of special educators and teaching assistants to provide support for many students. When this support is consistent, invested, and prepared, students do better.
- best resources - schools where teachers have the best online and offline resources tend to create a better learning environment than schools where teachers don't have the materials they need to teach math well in multi-modal ways.
- time on task - schools that make time for good teaching and learning support success. Time on task matters.
- professional learning - schools that support quality, responsive professional learning, generally support a more successful teaching/learning environment
- teacher voice and choice - in schools where teachers are treated as professionals whose voice and choice are honored with good collaborative process create a more successful teaching/learning environment
- tutors and extra help - often students who succeed have tutors or attend special programming after school related to the subject, this is an important factor that leads to success.
- at-home technology - children who have access to technology at home and use that technology to forward their learning in positive ways, benefit.
- good routines and rest - students who have good routines including healthy meals, adequate rest, and peaceful, supportive homes are generally more ready to learn.
- teacher-student relationship - every year I am always astounded by the fact that the students I have the best teaching relationship with, do the best with regard to improvement and scores. Positive relationships are a key factor in student learning and success.
To truly analyze student performance, we have to look at multiple factors in deep and beneficial ways. The lens cannot be too narrow or exclusive, but instead we need a broad, inclusive lens to adequately assess student performance via a number of formal and informal assessments. This kind of broad, inclusive, open, and inviting analyses will help us to truly better the work we do together as educators. To assess well is not a one-size-fits-all process, but instead a multi-dimensional, collaborative process. Onward.