Professional Development


By Mary Anne Mather, Managing Editor
TERC’s Using Data for Meaningful Change Blog

2013-12_LFGroup2The 2013 annual Learning Forward Conference in Dallas, Texas faced quite a challenge this past December as a major ice storm glazed the area in a slick crust of sheer slippage. Flights were canceled, and Texas-based drivers found themselves snarled on impassable roads. Using Data, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, was scheduled to present a full-capacity, all-day session on Monday, December 9 entitled Effective, Continuous Data Use Requires Prepared Leadership. Would we make it? Would our participants? (more…)

Guest Blogger: Dr. William L. Heller, Using Data Program Director, Teaching Matters*

Data-savvy investigators never make important decisions based on a single source. When teams following the Using Data process believe they may have found a student learning problem, based on their analysis of standardized testing results, they know to confirm the problem through an examination of student work and other common formative assessments. When they do this, it’s important for them to have a norming process in place to ensure that group of people looking at large scoring checklist with multiple scoring options presented and a large red pencil ready to select the right checkboxthe data being generated is reliable and useful.

Norming is the process of calibrating the use of a single set of scoring criteria among multiple scorers. If norming is successful, a particular piece of work should receive the same score regardless of who is scoring it. With the advent of the Common Core State Standards Initiative, we may anticipate that curriculum-embedded performance tasks will begin to gain prominence over traditional multiple-choice tests, and it will be even more important for teachers to be aware of how to make the best use of these assessments. Whether or not they are rigorous about norming can make a very big difference. (more…)

GUEST BLOGGER: Mary Anne Mather, Using Data Facilitator & Social Media Liaison on Twitter & FaceBook

Set aside assumptions, and focus on just the “data facts” before leaping to explanation and interpretation.
The Data Coach’s Guide to Improving Learning for All Students

Teachers are natural problem solvers. When we see evidence of individual students struggling, or indicators in our data that groups of students are underachieving, we are anxious to find solutions. The Using Data process advocates a “hold your horses” mindset that can help teachers to better pinpoint a student learning problem before jumping to explanations, interpretations, and quick-fix solutions. Data analysis is more effective if a team of face showing only one open eyestakeholders takes the time to observe and record as many details as possible about what the data reveal.

Observe is the third stage in a 4-phase dialogue process* that guides deep discussion toward deriving accurate meaning from the data. (See more information about Step 1: Predict and Step 2: Go Visual.) Engaging in this process as a data team, rather than individually, can garner the greatest impact toward improved student achievement. (more…)

GUEST BLOGGER: Jennifer Unger Director, The GroupWorks, Grafton, MA. Jennifer is a senior facilitator for TERC’s Using Data.

As a facilitator of learning, one of the great conundrums I see participants grappling with is the growing realizationhand waving magic wand that I, as the facilitator of their learning, may not be a magician, and that they must actually use the tools, resources and processes that I provide in order to initiate the changes that they desire. It is simply not enough to attend a working session and leave saying, “Been there-done that.”

Now I know this for a fact because I do it all the time—whether I am attending a Michael Fullan workshop or reading a really great book (most recently, Mike Schmoker’s FOCUS). Somehow, there is that deep, abiding belief that just engaging with their ideas will change me. While it may be a first miniscule beginning step, alas, I know that it will not change me any more than watching tons of exercise videos will help me lose weight. Change is something that I must DO and, as Ghandi said, BE

Which leads me to the Concerns Based Adoption Model (CBAM) that was introduced to me by my colleagues Susan Loucks-Horsley and Susan Mundry, and, its sister, the Innovation Configuration. Two of the foundational underlying assumptions of these models/frameworks are that change takes time and that change is a process, not an event. (more…)

GUEST BLOGGER: Mary Anne Mather, Using Data Facilitator & Social Media Liaison on Twitter & FaceBook

“’Go Visual’ with your data to help construct meaning, make sense,
and prepare to engage in meaningful dialogue.

The Data Coach’s Guide to Improving Learning for All Students

Teachers have access to rich and varied student data, often provided in a variety of computer-generated documents with lots of numbers. Where does a data team begin their dialogue about what the numbers show? How can the team integrate multiple sources of data to tell a coherent story? How can a data team bring to life pages of numbers, so that the data can paint a picture about student learning? One way to illuminate the stories within the data is for data teams to create their own visual display of the data. We call it “Go Visual.”
visual of steps in  4-phase data dialog process“Go Visual” is the second stage in a four-phase process that guides data teams through deep discussion about data and helps them derive meaning from the data. (more…)

You might enjoy listening to the Etta James classic hit At Last you read this blog entry. It’s the tune I’m hearing, having just re-read what I consider to be one of the most insightful counterpoints to the recent federal policy recommendations that outline compliance requirements in order for states to participate in the education stimulus Etta James Album Cover At Lastfund efforts. I’m referring specifically to requiring states to implement processes for evaluating teacher quality solely on the basis of student achievement results.

Coincidentally, the inspiring article I refer to is by another Etta—Etta Kralovec—in her piece “A More Complete Evaluation” (Educational Leadership, Dec. 2010)

To offer a little context…Etta K. is an associate professor of teacher education at the University of Arizona. In an effort to re-align her thinking about what it really takes to be an effective teacher and education leader, she arranged for a leave from her university in order to assume the principalship of a small high school. (Would that more education professors and pundits could temper their views with a similar hands-on eye-opener.) (more…)

It really is all in the details! This article about the successful use of data (“Peabody Teachers Studying Ways to Better Test Scores,” Salem News, December 24, 2010) by staff in the Peabody Public Schools, a district in Massachusetts, reminds me that when we get it right, the results can be extraordinary and culture changing. The article likens the Peabody teachers to “a team of scientists racing to find a cure.”

With all of the hype about schools becoming data-driven, few details accompany the “business speak” to offer examples of what it means to be data-driven, much less provide a road map for getting there. And just to clarify, we at Using Data prefer it to be a road map to becoming data informed, not data-driven—an important detail that makes room for educator expertise in identifying and applying solutions.

Teachers in three Peabody schools provide solid clues about what data-informed practice looks like in the ongoing work of their schools (and the results that are possible). (more…)