On March 6, we held a panel for our Assessment Debate. Three experts came in to discuss the finer points of assessments: low-stakes, high-stakes, and alternative forms of measuring student learning. Here are the key take-aways from the “Why is Data Important?” cut:
- Determine what the data is telling you, then decide how you will use that data.
- Data must be timely.
- Frame the data in a larger context. Don’t get too focused on one question or one standard.
- Having student data is nice, but teachers need time and support to do something with it.
Read full transcript below, or check out all videos from the Assessment Debate.
Kattie: Alexis, in your work as a coach at the Achievement Network (ANet) using data and interim data, do you have any strategies, or tips and tricks that you can give to teachers out there on how to better use this data and better leverage it in their classroom?
Alexis Rosenblatt, ANet: Sure, I think you have to figure out what that data is telling you. So are you looking at that data to see what you’ve taught and what students have learned? Are you looking at the data to decide whether or not you understood… I mean there is a movement in the country around the Common Core State Standards which have been here for a little while, but I think is actually settling into schools now, and the schools that I work with, so you have to decide, am I looking at something I haven’t taught yet and the students are actually showing some mastery on something so they have some of those skills coming into the classroom so I can leverage when I teach this topic?
But I think you can’t do everything. So if I have an assessment that has 30 or 40 items on it, I have to stop and decide, what am I gonna tease out that I can do tomorrow? What do I need to do long term? What is fitting with the curriculum that is in somebody else’s classroom—that maybe, “Oh look this fits really nicely in science,” or “I’d love for history teachers to be teaching more informational nonfiction text. Let me connect with my peers around this.” So sort of trying to figure out what is the data telling you. And you can’t do everything, so to figure out how to not be overwhelmed by too much data.
Jonathan Ketchell, HSTRY: No exactly, I think that’s one of the problems I’ve encountered throughout my teaching career is teachers never have time… we just never have time for anything, unfortunately, but I think that’s why the digital age is actually gonna be beneficial to everyone. We’re actually gonna create—hopefully through the work that Gradeable is doing—we’re gonna create more time so teachers can collaborate and better their classes, clearly.
Alexis: I think that the idea of getting data in real time, or very quickly, is important so—no offense to the MCAS—but taking an assessment in March and getting data in September or October, there’s so little action you can take on that in terms of those students. So the more actionable the data is I just think the better, and timely is awesome… either in real time or a short amount of time.
Jennifer Spencer, MATCH Charter High School: I think also teachers have a tendency, when they get the data, to hone in too deeply on each individual item as well. So looking at why a student got one particular question wrong and then drilling that kind of question over and over and over again with students, rather than looking at the bigger picture about what kinds of errors the student made on that particular questions. I’ve seen that a few time where the teachers that I’ve worked with have said, “Oh well we need to do this kind of question , we need to make sure the students understand this question better” and that are kind of… I think i’m gonna use the word flummoxed… is that…
Alexis: Mmhmm, that’s a word.
Jennifer: …about why they are still not doing so well on that particular standard on the next assessment with a different item. And so I think in terms of the moving target aspect, teachers try to steady that target by nailing down that one particular assessment item rather than looking at the bigger picture, as Alexis said, the idea of it being one tool, looking at the data, what does the data exactly show? That’s why it’s important to have someone who is not the teacher helping to frame the data in the greater context.
Alexis: But I think just to [Jonathan’s] point before about time: yes, you want the data to be timely, and then you want the actual space and support to do something with it. So getting data but then having no opportunity to collaborate with your peers or to sit down even on your own and try to do this—I think there needs to be actually time for teachers to then look at, and plan, from the data.