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

All too often state test results may be the only source consulted when targeting specific areas for improvement. However, decisions about instructional changes that reflect only this single data source, might lead to errors in your decision-making.

If you want your data to lead you toward making meaningful changes, an important principle to follow, is triangulation. wire rim glasses with three lensesTriangulation means using three independent data sources to examine apparent issues or problems. You might ask, “Why bother with the extra work of triangulating?” Consider this analogy:

A third-grade teacher asks Mary to look through the front panel of the classroom terrarium and list everything she sees. Mary diligently makes a thorough list and begins to return to her seat when the teacher asks her to take a second look through the side panel of the terrarium. She immediately sees several plants and animals obscured in the front panel view by rocks and shrubs. By using this second “window,” Mary now has a more complete picture. Then the teacher asks Mary to peer through the top of the terrarium to see if there is anything else. Mary is able to add to her list before she sits down. Her three-window analysis reveals a far more comprehensive picture than any one window alone.*

The notion of using multiple windows or perspectives also applies to understanding and applying information from student achievement data. Consider these Action Steps: (more…)

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GUEST BLOGGER: Mary Anne Mather, TERC Using Data Facilitator & Social Media Liaison

Michelle_Rhee_at_NOAA

Rhee speaking at NOAA, June 2008

The recent media outcry about whether or not Michele Rhee, former Chancellor of the D.C. Public Schools, exaggerated her students’ test scores has died down a bit this week. But in mulling over last week’s news (See Larry Ferlazzo’s The Best Posts About Michelle Rhee’s Exaggerated Test Scores), I’m reminded of a simple measurement a long-time teacher friend uses before making any important education decision. She calls it the “What’s the Point” (WTP) assessment. She even considered having t-shirts made to remind us always to consider WTP before deciding what we teach and why.

Let’s set aside all the press, subsequent commentary, and or own feelings about the Rhee controversy. It’s not all that useful a discussion. But it does surface, for me, three WTPs.  These points are the bottom line for using data, reporting data, or discussing data for any meaningful purpose, and they might even resonate with those who regularly caution that test scores are unreliable gauges of performance. (more…)