By Mary Anne Mather, Managing Editor
TERC’s Using Data For Meaningful Change Blog
TERC Using Data Senior Facilitator

Many districts are heading into spring state-level testing. It’s irrefutable that the opinions surrounding the pros and cons ofthree teachers collaboratively analyzing student work samples such assessments make for heated discussions in many circles. Not the least among the disputes is the time spent on what some call “teaching to the test.” The high stakes value placed on these tests can make even the best of us do things we don’t really embrace as best practice.

At TERC, we try to look at it from a different angle. What if our day-to-day work as professional-level instructors set the stage for students to perform better on the standardized tests because we intricately understood the ins and outs of what students do and do not know? Armed with that knowledge, we can plan classroom instruction that closes the gap between misconception and success. It’s most likely going to influence test scores, while addressing essential grade-level learning goals. That’s where looking at student work samples comes in! (more…)

Guest Blogger, Jennifer Ungermultiple pieces of large chart paper displaying data analysis that creates a hand-drawn data wall

When TERC’s Using Data facilitators work with schools and districts, we assist with establishing a continuous improvement culture that is grounded on collaborative inquiry. In the process, a lot of chart-paper-sized posters are created. There’s a sound and productive reason for this large-format paper trail!

Anyone who has engaged in data analysis with Using Data’s protocols and processes knows that we value public recording on chart paper because it gets everyone literally “on the same page” and talking together as they uncover learning challenges, own them, and identify strategic solutions. (more…)

Guest Blogger: Jennifer Ungermany colored 3-D question marks

I have worked with so many districts and schools where the leadership proudly points to their “data binders”—most recently I recall a three-inch D-ring binder. Not that binders filled with data aren’t helpful or good, but I caution that if they are not being used to guide instructional and programmatic decisions, well, then they can be a waste of precious time and money. More importantly, if they are not connected to a shared ownership of the questions a group of educators has about instruction and programs and similar concerns, then they can serve no meaningful purpose.

So how do we get from just having data to using data for meaningful change and improved results? (more…)

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

Any parent or teacher can identify with the “why” inquisition. For a parent, it’s those moments when your child questions an observed phenomenon like “Why is the sky blue?” You give an explanation, and then the child asks why again…and again. For a teacher, it’s the proverbial student the word why and many question marks on wooden type-face blocksquestion, “Why do I need to know THIS?” You explain, and then you hear, “But why is that important to ME?” At times, the whole experience, for certain, can test one’s level of knowledge, not to mention your patience. And yet, we all understand that learning is about inquiry and discovery. Asking “why” should be something to rejoice in! And asking “why” should remain a lifelong learning tool. It doesn’t stop after childhood.

I recently came across a list at the Teach Thought website that caused me to reflect again on a very essential phase of the Using Data process—Causal Analysis. Informally, we call it why-why-why. The list posted at Teach Thought, 10 Silent Disruptors Of Student Academic Performance aligned pretty closely to some of the causes that we help teachers to explore during causal analysis in order to justify phenomenon existing in their schools that can be altered, and by doing so, leads to increased student achievement. In fact, we offer a set of cause cards that scaffold the reflection process.

In order to use data well, the why-why-why phase of data analysis through collaborative inquiry is as essential as the air we breathe if, as educators, we are going to get beyond the surface of things and accurately pursue meaningful differences that will impact student achievement. We can have mountains of data, and we can even take a step further and analyze those mountains. But until we connect the dots among multiple data sources, discover specific student learning challenges, and then take the time to ask “why-why-why” in order to verify the root causes of these challenges, selecting solutions is premature.

For sure, the data consulted must reach beyond numbers and test scores because the causes can reside in scheduling, misalignment of curriculum and assessments, mismatched vocabulary between what is taught and what is tested, lack of rigor or teacher content knowledge, low expectations for selected student groups, and more. The causes might be any or all of the 10 disrupters on the Teach Thought graphic. The good news is that verified causes can be addressed, and the results can be astounding!

For a step-by-step description of one why-why-why activity, check out Using Data’s Tip #6, When Analyzing Causes, Ask “Why? Why? Why?”.

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

LogicModelDuvalTERC’s Using Data facilitators have been working for the past two years with 30 elementary schools in Duval County Florida. This is possible through funding from a U.S Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences (IES) grant to study the efficacy of the Using Data for Meaningful Change processes.

As our time together winds down, the Duval schools are sharing stories about transformation in practice, focus, and student achievement. (more…)

Collaborative inquiry posters showing causal analysis based on San Mateo Elementary School data

Collaborative inquiry posters showing causal analysis based on San Mateo Elementary School data

The Data-Aware Principal: Reflection #1
Guest Blogger: Lindsay P. Sharp, Principal, San Mateo Elementary School, Duval County Public Schools, Jacksonville, FL

As a principal, it’s clear to me that I need to be data informed. My job depends on it—literally, since I am evaluated by my school’s achievement. More importantly, though, my heart depends on it—I am committed to seeing data not as just numbers, but connected to the success of the students and teachers in my school.

As the school’s leader, my thoughts turn to the best way to translate my own state of “data informed-ness” into meaningful action, and I have come to understand the key lies in putting my efforts into creating data leaders beyond the principal’s office. My Using Data colleagues are now in every classroom in my school! Accomplishing this level of a “using data school culture” depends on a process that involves professional development, support, and dedication over time. We work at it every day. (more…)

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

I was bolstered by this bit of news from Tennessee via Learning Forward about the efficacy of teacher teams that meet regularly to share data and strategies. The article is a sound-bite about the good news for student achievement in Wilson County that leaves me hungry for the details about how their meetings are structured,Three teachers collaborating in front of a large chart showing their school improvementy action plan what data they look at, and how that data inform practice. From the published results, they seem to have discovered the perfect storm where collaboration, data, and strategies/solutions meet to make a difference. I, for one—as a facilitator of processes to help conjure similar storms, applaud them!

But the news item also reminded me that there’s more to this kind of success than simply meeting as a team and sharing “what works.” (more…)