GUEST BLOGGER: Mary Anne Mather, Using Data Facilitator & the face behind Using Data on Twitter & FaceBook

“Every member of a school community can act as a data leader.”
The Data Coach’s Guide to Improving Learning for All Students

Schools are working hard to provide data that works for teachers and students. In fact, your school may have invested in a powerful data warehouse that provides you with access to reports that may include state test score, benchmark assessment scores, and other assessment data. You may see aggregate and disaggregated scores for your state, district, school, and class, as well as scores for your individual students. You may wonder, “How can I use all these numbers to help me? How can they help my students?”

Using data effectively starts with teachers who understand that the benefits of data are not all on the data dashboard. Access to well-organized data is just the beginning of an ongoing and collaborative process that investigates the current status of student learning and instructional practice. In this process, any member of the school community can act as a leader by celebrating accomplishments, challenging current practices, encouraging learning communities, staying focused on goals, communicating ideas, and actively engaging others in decision making and instructional improvement. So, lead the way—take steps to work together with your colleagues to use your data to find:

• successes to celebrate;
• learning problems to address;
• teaching practices to change.

Action Steps

1. To get started—request a meeting with grade-level or subject-area colleagues to discuss the data sets provided by your school or district. Referring to your data, ask yourselves,

• What am I doing well? How can I amplify what I’m doing well?
• Who isn’t learning? Are there student groups not being served?
• What, specifically, aren’t some students learning?
• What in my practice could be causing this?
• How can I be sure my assumptions are correct?
• What can I do to improve? How do I know that it worked?
• What do I do if the students still don’t learn?

2. Work in pairs to pinpoint one or two priority learning challenges you feel need to be addressed:

• Identify whether specific student groups are struggling with the identified challenges more than others.
• Present your findings to the larger group to discover similarities and differences.

3. Together, make inferences about what might be the causes for these learning challenges.

4. From here, develop a plan for how you can continue to analyze multiple data sources (including test scores, attendance records, student work, and student observation) to confirm or refute your inferences about possible causes.

Now, you have taken the first steps as a data leader by making meaning of your data and beginning the discussion, “What can we do differently, and how will we know if it works?” Great teaching begins with using data!