1. As our curriculum this past year was still based on the NJ standards, I created objective and written tests based on our new CCSS standards so that we could measure what we needed to improve and fortify as we adapted to our new standards. We implemented these tests in September and then again in January (we are on block scheduling) to measure growth. What I found was that our curriculum clearly was lacking in all of the vocabulary standards. This wasn't a surprise to me as our school has a large portion of economically disadvantaged students. However, we did put together a vocabulary team and we created some fun and creative ways to boost vocabulary growth. We also focused heavily on vocabulary as we wrote our new units. I look forward to using data to analyze whether or not our changes are effective.
2. We used the data from those same tests to look at individual classes. It was evident from the data where individual teachers strengths and weaknesses lay. I used that data to form our teams for curriculum revisions. For example, if a teacher taught grades 9 and 11, and their scores were excellent with juniors but lacking with freshmen, that teacher was placed on the 11th grade team. This way, we drew on a teacher's strengths rather than their weaknesses. Hopefully, the curriculum they created will help everyone else become stronger.
3. Another way I used data this year, though apprehensively, was to look at individual student's ASK 8 scores and then their HSPA scores. I was extremely skeptical about this as there are three years in between the tests. A lot can happen in a student's life in three years. As skeptical as I was, I can't deny that I saw definite patterns in the data. It would have been much more effective if I could see each students break down by skill, but still, it was informative. What I found was that, as a school, we are doing a fantastic job. Overall, our gains were incredible. Individually, there were definite differences. I am using this data to help put together a strong junior team for next year.
4. I also had to take a hard look at myself. I taught Juniors, and my scores, while good, were not where I would like them to be. Intrigued, I looked at my data from the year before. I noticed that my scores (based on growth, not actual numbers) were much better . This caused me to take a look at my pedagogy and lesson plans from both years to note the differences. I often feel that it is difficult to tell what is actually working in the classroom. How do you know the students are learning? As a tool, the data was wonderful in assisting me in analyzing what works.
The caveat, or elephant in the room, is to look at what we are measuring. Standardized tests only measure a small portion of what we, as teachers, hope our students learn. They don't measure creativity, innovation, or negotiating skills. They don't measure ethics. They don't measure speaking and listening, which are critical life skills. My fear is that using data will cause teachers to focus only on these measured skills. As states use data in a punitive manner, will this create classrooms that focus only on reading and writing? Will teachers rigidly teach only what is on the test?
What are your thoughts on using data to drive instruction?