Teaching with Data

Ruminating on effective ways to use data to guide instruction in the classroom and other topics.

Archive for the ‘Data’ Category

Four Years of U.S. Department of Education Research Shows Read 180® Effective … – MarketWatch (press release)

Posted by LAUSD Secondary Literacy/ELA on November 19, 2011

Via Scoop.itCountdown to Common Core
Four Years of U.S. Department of Education Research Shows Read 180® Effective …MarketWatch (press release)…
Via news.google.com


Posted in Curriculum, Data | Leave a Comment »

Parents and Data

Posted by LAUSD Secondary Literacy/ELA on November 13, 2011

This past spring I worked with a team to develop a data-based instruction website, targeting specific stakeholder groups: teachers, administrators, counselors, students, and parents.  The goal of the website is to consolidate, as much as possible, data resources  that can help each stakeholder group determine student needs in order to make the best curriculum, instructional, and school decisions. When designing the parent/family member page , we really had to think about what kind of data parents have access to, and more importantly, what data will help them make the best academic decisions for their children.

In my district, over 70% of our students are eligible for free and reduced lunch. We have parents who have a limited education and limited English skills; however, our parents are dedicated to finding the best options for their children. So in thinking about data, I am currently ruminating on how to best educate our parents on how to have conversations with their children’s teachers based on data:

  • How do parents AND teachers use data to identify a child’s difficulty?
  • How do parents AND teachers use the data to determine why this child is having difficulty?
  • How do parents AND teachers use the data to determine the instruction/intervention that could be effective and appropriate for this child?
  • How do parents AND teachers use the data to monitor if the instruction/intervention is working? And if it isn’t working, how do parents AND teachers use the data to determine why?

I know that parents do not have to be involved in every detail of an instructional or intervention plan; however, the point is that they should always be involved in the discussion, which should always include data.

I worked with parent representatives from secondary schools who embraced these questions. But there is one question that I did not include above that I did discuss with the parent representatives: How is my child doing compared to the other students in the class? This question is the one that can make teachers feel the most  uncomfortable: If only 50% of the students are earning a C or better in the class, it is not an individual student issue. This issue is what we in the RtI (Response to Instruction and Intervention) world call a Tier 1 issue: under 80% of the class is not meeting the benchmark; therefore, the issue needs to be addressed within the core instruction, not just with one student. The problem could be in the Iinstruction, Curriculum, or the  Environment–ICE (see post dated 7-14-11).

The point is that parents should see class data to gain a better perspective of their child’s issue in relationship to the whole class. Teachers can show data results for the entire class by masking the other student names, or using various data displays, i.e., bar graphs, pie charts, etc. Parents have a right to know how their students are doing in respect to other students in the class and in the school. Without this data, they have no “authentic” way to measure how their child is performing.

So how would I help parents understand the data?

  • If  a school does an orientation for parents and students, I would prepare school data packets for the parents, and in a workshop, explain the data and discuss what it reflects about the school.
  • In a teacher professional development, I would present ways to discuss student data with parents, including having teachers role play with each other as parent and teacher.
  • I would provide workshops for parents before the Parent Conference Night on how to read the data, discuss the data with a teacher, and how to make decisions based on the data. In fact, I would probably hold these workshops just before each grading period.
  • I would encourage my principal to schedule regular “data chats” with parents to discuss district, school, and department/grade level data.
If you have stuck with me through this entire post, thank you for reading along while I try to answer this question. If you have any comments, or any other ideas, I would really be interested in reading about them.

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Teachers step up to the challenge: data metaphors and similes

Posted by LAUSD Secondary Literacy/ELA on August 10, 2011

If you scroll down, you will see a post on July 12th titled, “Data Metaphors or Similes.” This post was actually an optional assignment for teachers participating in a professional development course, “Using Data to Target Instruction and Intervention in English Language Arts.” Basically, I challenged them to create a data metaphor or simile. Over the three different sessions of the course, a few teachers stepped up to the challenge. I am very impressed with their creativity and their understanding of the critical role data plays in student achievement.

Here are their metaphors and similes gathered from the “Comments”:

Data are like bricks of cement. When organized and given purpose they can build great things according to the honest engineer that assembles them. Will the structure stand the test of time and weather challenges of the environment? That is also based on the data used and the engineer’s proper mission in using the scientific method to solve real problems for society. -Lorraine

Data represents children like snowflake, each different and unique  -Ivania

Data are all the fish in the seas. -Mary Fraser

Data are like birds flying south in the winter; to be efficient they must be in an organized formation.   -Mary Fraser

Data are like sheep. Left unattended, they will wander off and be lost. Also, the shepherd must remember that, once the sheep become mutton, they cease forever to be sheep.  -Joseph

Data: the stars by which we guide our ships  -Kylowna Moton

Data; the bones that give structure and strength to the soft and fleshy parts of our work. -Ron Plank

Data are like a doctor’s diagnosis that identifies what the problem is, why it’s occurring in the patient, and help analyze the effectiveness of possible solutions.  -Cynthia Shiva

Data is like a fluffy, puffy cloud each set of eyes sees something unique.  -Lauren

Data are like the Grand Canyon, it has vast high and low points with varying points of elevation in the middle.  -Darlene

Posted in Data, Response to Instruction and Intervention, Teachers as writers, Writing to Learn; Writing Across the Curriculum | Leave a Comment »

Going around the roadblocks

Posted by LAUSD Secondary Literacy/ELA on July 21, 2011

Last week when I was co-facilitating a professional development (“Using Data to Target Instruction and Intervention for English Language Arts”), we asked teachers to brainstorm a list of “roadblocks” to using  data to make instructional decisions. Time was definitely a roadblock that every one agreed is really a problem; however, we later created a “Like Me” graph, using the top seven choices, “Time” being one of those choices, and it turned out when faced with picking the top four roadblocks to data use, time was not one of the major choices (See photo. Time is the second row from the left).

When I asked teachers why time they did not see time as a major roadblock in this list, they stated because there wasn’t anything you could do about time. They never had enough time, so what else could you do about it. This thinking made me stop. I had been thinking that people have to be shown how to best maximize their time with the limited amount they have. I believe that these teachers were thinking that out of the choices they could make, how to resolve the time issue, was not a choice they would waste their energy on because there was really nothing they could do about it.

It’s true. Time can be our Waterloo in education. We never seem to have enough of it; we don’t have the money to pay teachers the amount of time we need them; and, when working with data, especially when you are starting out, it TAKES TIME! So with the lack of time, comes the lack of patience, which I see as definitely as  obtrusive as time: they are inextricably linked. When teachers don’t have enough time to complete the assigned task, they lose patience, becoming more and more frustrated, less and less patient with the data analysis process.

Data analysis can become a very time consuming task, especially if you do not have specific goals or structures in place. With very targeted goals, realistic expectations, an understanding of the time limitations, and strong organization and preparation, the issue of time can be addressed much more effectively.  We have to learn to work better with the limited time and resources that we have. This preparation should start taking place before the end of the school year, so in the summer, professional development of data analysis can be developed.  Examining data without specific goals or questions will only be an exercise in continual “data admiration,” which becomes a waste of time,  leading to frustration. Specific data questions and problem solving goals assist in designing the training, meetings, and documentation needed to analyze and act upon the data.

I really don’t believe that I can “blow up” the time roadblock, but one of my goals is to help schools construct a path around this roadblock so that it doesn’t stop the flow of information, knowledge, ideas, and actions.

Posted in Data | 1 Comment »

The problem is occurring because…

Posted by LAUSD Secondary Literacy/ELA on July 14, 2011

Group members first decided which "reasons" they have no control over (can't change). Then they organized their hypotheses into categories: Instruction/Curriculum/Environment/Learner. After doing this step, they chose their top three (stars).


This group took their cue from another teacher in the class. Yesterday John stated that if you first look at your problem residing in the Learner, then you will get "lice."

This group chose their top three hypotheses, rewrote them and then also attached their prediction statements.

I and another facilitator have been working with twelve amazing educators in a Professional Development titled, “Using Data to Target Instruction and Intervention in English Language Arts.” These posters reflect the work we have been doing when working in step two of the Problem Solving Process: Problem Analysis.  The teachers were working with the Affinity Protocol as described in the book Data Wise: A Step-by-Step Guide to Using Assessment Results to Improve Teaching and Learning.

Protocols provide a structure in which a group can have a constructive conversation around an issue and/or data.  This particular protocol that the teachers used is very effective in getting all the ideas out “on the table,” removing the ideas that are out of their control, categorizing the ideas, and then finally, choosing the top three.

In this training, teachers were working in the Problem Solving Process (Response to Instruction and Intervention) to determine what was causing the problem (hypothesis) they had earlier identified by analyzing various data reports. Once they had brainstormed their ideas about why the problem was occurring and isolated the ideas that they knew they could not change, they categorized their ideas  under four domain headings: Instruction, Curriculum, Environment, and Learner (ICE + L). These domains reflect “where the hypotheses live.” Categorizing this way, helps teachers to be more targeted in their intervention design.  When trying to determine why the problem is happening, we encourage teachers to look at the other domains–Instruction,Curriculum,Environment–before stating the problem is with the Learner.  Yesterday in the training, John commented that if you put the “L” first you have lice; therefore, if you go to the Learner first, you will have “lice.” The third poster illustrates John’s idea. Of course, the hypotheses they eventually chose, did not focus the problem on the learner, so they avoided the lice problem.

Before this training I had never used the Affinity Protocol. Now I am a total convert. After introducing and explaining it to the teachers, they started working. I was a little worried in the beginning because they didn’t seem to be brainstorming as quickly as I expected; however, my worrying was premature. Within five minutes the conversations started, the post-its started multiplying, and they were fully engaged with the task. My partner and I just took pictures, listened in on their conversations, answered question,s and made comments when asked. It was a facilitator’s dream!

Posted in Collaboration, Data, ICEL, Problem Solving Process, Response to Instruction and Intervention | Leave a Comment »

Data Metaphors or Similes

Posted by LAUSD Secondary Literacy/ELA on July 12, 2011

Using metaphors as a teaching strategy should not be limited to those of us  in the  language arts. Creating metaphors or similes enables students to think about concepts, people, history, etc., in a variety of different ways.

I would love to read your “data metaphors.” How would you describe data metaphorically? What would you use as a comparison?

Here are a couple of my attempts:

Metaphor: Data are a cacophony of notes waiting for the composer to shape their melody.

Simile: Data are like  trails of breadcrumbs that sometimes leads us to places we are unfamiliar.

Analyzing metaphors is much easier for me than writing them. I hope you take on the challenge.


Posted in Data | 8 Comments »

Starting the journey with Data

Posted by LAUSD Secondary Literacy/ELA on June 23, 2011

Data helps in our search for the best possible ways to meet our students' needs.

So, first off, you have to know that I am a HUGE Star Trek fan (not quite a Trekkie, but pretty close). When I was thinking about this blog and trying to determine a title, I thought of my favorite character from “Star Trek: Next Generations,” Mr. Data. If you do not know Lieutenant Commander Data, he is an android who is on a quest to understand what it means to be human. People think about data as being cold, impersonal; however, I argue that data, both quantitative and qualitative, can provide teachers with a greater understanding of their classes and individual students. Therefore, as Mr. Data came closer to understanding the human psyche during Star Trek’s nine seasons and three movies, I believe that educators need to come closer to understanding how to use all types of data to assist in determining the most effective ways to provide a positive, effective, and rigorous learning for their students.

Mr. Data as Sherlock Holmes symbolizes what data can actually do for educators: it provides us with the clues to help us to find the best  possible tools to help our students.

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Welcome to the discussion

Posted by LAUSD Secondary Literacy/ELA on June 23, 2011

Data-based decision making is the new ubiquitous phrase in education, but what does it really mean for teachers and students? How do teachers–individually, collaboratively–negotiate this “brave new world” of data? And what do we really mean when we use this seemingly omnipresent phrase. In this blog, I am opening up this discussion, along with any other educational topics to give teachers and other stakeholders the opportunities to constructively pursue these various concepts, always with a primary focus: the best ways to help ALL students achieve.

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