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I love data. In fact, my colleague’s response to the school that I would be attending for its initial grade level data meetings for reading and math included “… I know this will be fun and interesting for her…” She was right! This is what I observed:

Coaches and teachers disaggregating their school-wide data by class, subject (math and reading), and individual student;

Coaches and teachers identifying student proficiency by common core standards;

Coaches and teachers identifying strategies to increase individual student learning; and

Coaches explaining how the data can help teachers distinguish exactly what kids know and don’t know.

Baseline data are important for the following reasons, but more than that rolling out the data so that interpretation of it and actions related to it can happen is a must. Consider the following examples aligned to the items above:

Teachers identified the top 3 standards which the highest level of student proficiency as well as the 3 standards having the lowest level of student proficiency. They connected the standard to the Big Idea (e.g., operations/algebraic thinking – word problems) and identified whether the standard had been taught or not yet taught. The high and low standards were compared across classes within the grade level. The coaches followed up with the common core and provided specific examples of connecting the standard with teacher practice and presentation.

[Shared by the Reading Coach] Data help us identify the implications for pre-readers and emergent readers so that we can provide for them a purpose for reading; that is, we always want to set the purpose before we begin the lesson. For example, “Today we’re going to read about two characters. They are not the same, they are different…” or explaining that “We want to focus on Goldilocks and not the 3 Bears…” The purpose may also focus on students choosing the correct vocabulary instead of the almost correct vocabulary (e.g., do not allow responses of “ugly” when the response requires a behavioral term).

An item analysis showed that students taking a listening comprehension test were unable to differentiate between choices of “trained” and “train” when asked to “choose the correct representation of the word” that was spoken and received 4 different choices. It was only by looking at the item analysis that the teacher and coach were able to see that it was an issue of not knowing word endings versus not knowing letter recognition or sound recognition (i.e., one alternative response that was not chosen was “rained”). Identification of the specific skill allows the teacher and coach to identify specific strategies to address the learning deficiency.

The key of baseline achievement testing or end-of-year achievement testing is not the data itself. The key is how well leaders and coaches share the data with their teachers and how well the coaches and teachers communicate the action that they will take based on the student achievement scores. An example of this today was one of many comments from the reading coach:

What are you going to do now that I’ve given you this information? We’re going to focus on differential instruction using research based strategies… and the coach walked the teachers through a research-based instructional site, offered to create research-based games for the teachers to use in their classrooms, and provided research-based student centered activities by grade level.

What happened next? A teacher managed-up the coaches in front of the principal:

These coaches go above and beyond the call of duty. It’s like Christmas every week! This year is like ‘wow,’ and it’s totally different and everything is just wonderful. I appreciate everything these coaches do for us. [The coaches] make this year so much better and the kids love it too…

Rock on! Teachers who perceive their leaders (including coaches) are engaged with them in their classroom will be more satisfied and therefore do a better job. These data meetings set the stage for these teachers to not only recognize their coaches, but to openly recognize what students are doing to move closer to achieving learning targets and the common core standards.



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