Data: Build Relationships, Create Student Agency, & Personalize Learning

Next week I will begin my coaching cycle with our ELA teachers, and so far have been doing much planning with the department in preparation. Over the course of the last week, I witnessed one of our teachers, Ms. Fry, truly get her students to invest into what they are doing in class by using data. I had some trouble even deciding on an appropriate title for this post as what she is doing is engaging to the students in so many different ways.

The Data
This year is our first year using STAR assessments, and it has provided us with some tremendous insight into our readers. However, insights are nothing without some sort of action upon them to meet the needs of our students. How do we harvest a culture in the building in which students value what we are doing with data, and also how do we get them invested in understanding their own data and how they might improve? I’ve have been a part of similar initiatives in which we collect data on students and either use it to guide our own instruction or unfortunately what happens in many cases is that it just becomes a process with little investment by anyone to use it to encourage student growth.

The second piece of data that this relevant to this project was initiated by Ms. Fry herself. While the STAR data is a great piece of data to explore, she also felt that only those receiving RTI services really get progress monitored and there was a lack of student stakeholdership in the rest of the population in understanding the purpose of the testing, and to them seemed to be of no consequence. She was interested in fluency specifically. She had the students partner up and assess their words per minute three different times, having the students record their median score.

Student Ownership of Reading
Using the data she had gathered from both her STAR assessments and her in class fluency assessments, she began to meet with each student one-on-one to discuss how the students had been assessed, what their scores were, and what their scores mean in terms of their current level of fluency and comprehension. The conversations were enlightening for both the teacher and the individual students. I think there were many “lightbulb” moments throughout the conversations in which the students began to understand more about their own learning and gave Ms. Fry further insight into the struggles and success of her readers. The data became more than numbers on a paper for both the teacher and the student. Instead, it served as a catalyst to what will now be each students mission to improve upon their previous achievements. Meetings were about individual student data and these conversations were confidential. Students came out of the meeting with a desire to take their reading to the next step, which was evident in her students desire to embrace their reading time in class. As I walked around the room, it was incredible to see the amount of student investment into what they were reading. As I scanned the room, I could see each student tracking the text, engaged in what they were silently reading.

Student Tracking of Their Own Data
To take it one step further, Ms. Fry had me come down and co-teach a lesson on how they could track their own data, and how they could use GAFE as a tool in understanding their reading trends. I came down to her class and showed students how to create a spreadsheet to track their scores for both reading fluency and comprehension. We then took their tables and created graphs with trend lines so they could analyze their score and have an understanding of where they should be when future assessments are given. The end product was that students took their graphs and imported them into their own student-centered action plan, which highlighted how they would achieve their goals, what supports they would need along the way, how we as a faculty can help, as well as a chart demonstrating what their target goals could be. Their data was now part of this document so they could see in real-time how they were doing in their goals, as well as hold themselves accountable in reaching them.

The amount of ownership that can be seen by approaching data in this fashion has been already successful, and I can see a passion for reading emerging in students that may have not been present before. For some, it is a pure competitive spirit to surpass their previous scores. For others, it's the recognition that they are not where they want to be and would like to work hard to take corrective action.

Leading into an upcoming Project
The next step will lead to this teacher’s next class project that we are working on implementing together. This project and its resulting data will be the fundamental building blocks on how the project is designed, with students choosing books appropriate to their own reading scores in which they will participate in levelized book studies. This data will allow us to differentiate each lesson and how students will progress through the project’s mission, but I’ll leave that for an upcoming post.