Let the Data Queen Reign

Thursday, October 3, 2013
by your curly-haired friend Suzanne

It's the end of the Six Weeks here.  Chances are you might have some data on your hands that you don't know what to do with.  Listen closely to my tale:

"I really love numbers!" said no English teacher ever.  Well, except for one weirdo here in Texas.  Lori actually dubbed me the Data Queen, a term of endearment I'm sure.  
I do.  I really love numbers.  They tell a story if you'll listen.  With each new batch of students, I spend time pouring over their past testing data.  Is the test the be-all-end-all? Say it with me now, NO!  However, it does show a snapshot of what a student will do in a given environment, and it does shed light on strengths and weaknesses.  Looking from year to year, assessment to assessment, the teacher can discover whether it is an instructional or attitudinal issue.  So, how do we use these data stories?

Teacher Uses:
-Obvious teacher answer: to adjust instruction. {Insert "world peace" pageant smile here.} It is true though.  Our district uses Eduphoria to upload testing data.  It really is a great resource!  After my students take a district test, I pull the item analysis and get info that looks like this:
The one in green is the correct answer.  I look at the questions where fewer than half my students got the answer right.  Looks like they were just guessing there.  So that helps me pinpoint academic vocabulary and skills to be retaught and practiced.  

If your school district doesn't have a system that allows you to pull an item analysis, you could do the same thing by flipping through graded tests from your "middle of the road" class.  It might not be in a pretty little chart, but it's still formative assessment.

-Grouping/Partnering Students.  This is the one I love the most!  Sometimes arranging kids in groups is no fun. (Other times, it's too much fun!  Once I had a group that consisted of Jesus, Christian, Gabriel, and C. Lamb.  A little religious humor for ya.) While names, birthdays, favorite flavor of toothpaste, etc. are fine grouping strategies, data can also get the job done.  Not only that, but it's quick and purposeful.  

Again, using Eduphoria, I sort student scores from lowest to highest.  
*This does not represent any of my actual class sizes.  This is a portion of one class.  Sorry, just didn't want this to hurt my street cred.

I draw a line to divide the class in half.  Considering that I had complete control over the portion that I chose, I do not know what possessed me to clip an odd number of students. Oh well- that's life!  When there is an odd number, I make my lower scoring students the smaller pool because I would rather have them in a smaller group. 

Let's say I want to form groups of four.  I'm going to pair my lowest students and match them with the two students just under the line in my higher scoring group.  
Student A + Student B + Student F + Student G = A lovely, data-based group
Lori is probably crying right now because this looks like math.  My next group will consist of Students C, D, H and I.  Often, my remaining, higher-performing kids will make one or two groups larger.

Student Uses:
- That's right...student.uses.  Too often we pour over, sort, analyze, chart, and cry over data and then hold it close to our chest like it's a government secret.  This behavior is implying that the teacher holds all the ability to fix the problem.  Believe me, I've led many horses to water only to subsequently drown them in watering forcing them to drink.  I've ended up soggy and unsuccessful every time.  Students need to "own" their data.  After all, they're the ones who wrote this numeric story. 

I've used "STAAR Speak" notes with many groups of students.  This is the one that I prepared for my summer acceleration kiddos.  I give them all the info they could want and then some.  We look at the overall scale score and how it compares to the passing score.  Knowing that you are so close and where you need to pick up points is HUGE!  I go through and explain what each part means.  I also encourage them to think about their score as a percentage, like a grade. (4/16 = 25% Yikes!) It also allows students to see areas of strength.

Next, I want to know what they're thinking as they look at this.  I provide sentence stems like:
  • I think my score looks like this because...
  • I am surprised by...
  • My score is what I expected because...
  • I'm going to try _____ differently by...
We will fill in strategies to use in the last section, and students can take this game plan/ study sheet with them to study (don't burst my bubble!) over the long, holiday weekend before they test. (Great planning- thanks TEA!)

And there you have it...my data kingdom.
It's good to be queen!

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