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Using Student Achievement Data

August 30, 2011

The Center for Teaching is collaborating with Drew Charter School’s administration to launch a Data Wise Improvement Process at the school.  We are trying to figure out how best to integrate the Data Wise plan into the school’s culture.  Last year, the Senior Administrative Team worked through ten, one-hour workshops sessions becoming familiar with Data Wise.  We opted for this professional development protocol because the summer institute at Harvard Graduate School of Education on Data Wise is somewhat expensive.

The ten workshops, using Data Wise materials, was an effective way for the administrative team to familiarize themselves with the plan.  We piloted two Data Wise teams after we completed the training.  Team 1, 2nd grade, worked on a literacy learning problem that they identified through analyzing student data.  Team 2, 3rd grade, worked on a math learning problem that they also identified through student achievement data.  The literacy problem focused on vocabulary instruction while the math problem focused on teaching measurement.  The teachers translated the student learning problem into a problem of practice and went about developing some new lessons to teach the concepts.  We believe the two pilot projects were reasonably successful although we did not launch with fidelity the peer observation component of Data Wise.  That work remains to be done.

When we met with the larger Leadership Team to lay out the program and begin to build wider support for launching Data Wise, we ran a brainstorming session to unravel the challenges we would face trying to get the faculty on board.  Here is the result of that conversation as presented in a Wordle.  The main topic areas that the Leadership Team focused on were:

  • Time for professional development and implementation
  • Effective education on using Data Wise
  • Planning and communicating a strategy

Wordle: Brainstorming session on collaboration to effectively use student data

Clearly, faculty are concerned that the school will not allocate sufficient time to implement the improvement process as designed and not provide the training they need to become knowledgeable users of the process.

One teacher commented:

We need a commitment.  Often in education we look for the next great thing, never fully developing ideas or plans that are currently in place.

Another teacher commented:

Provide positive examples of how Data Wise has worked for schools and individuals, teachers and students, to improve student achievement.

This last comment illustrates how important it is to provide “real life” examples or success stories.  In this way, teachers can visualize what the outcome looks like.  What does a school that fully implements the Data Wise Improvement Process actually look and feel like?  With that imagine in mind, teachers feel more comfortable going down the path because they can see the target they are expected to hit.

Drew’s Senior Administrative Team and the Center for Teaching learned some interesting lessons from this session.  Hopefully, we can use feedback from faculty to design, launch, and successfully implement the improvement process at Drew Charter School.

(Drew Charter is a high-performing charter school in Atlanta’s East Lake community.)

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