Data-Tracking Advice from an Extraordinary Educator

By: | 10/06/2020
Categories: Data Culture, Instruction

If you look at sixth and eighth grade English language arts teacher Meghan Mayer’s online presence, you can see how much she loves teaching middle school. She posts colorful classroom photos, heartfelt videos, and thoughtful musings about teaching and education in general.

Meghan’s enthusiasm and her dedication to her students are two of the reasons Curriculum Associates recognized her as a 2020 Extraordinary Educator, an excellent teacher who demonstrates classroom innovation and engagement practices for students and is an evangelist for high standards and student achievement.

Curriculum Associates spoke with Meghan, who teaches at Brookside Middle School in Sarasota, Florida,  about data tracking for the Extraordinary Educators podcast and asked her to share her top tips from that conversation here.

Set Clear Expectations about Data

In my classroom, my students know that I'm going to talk to them about their data. I pretty much look at their data every single day, maybe more times than once. Data from our Diagnostic program is a big part of my teaching; it’s the basis for how I form my small group instruction and it guides the Personalized Instruction I ask my students to complete every week.

At the start of a new school year, before we have our first Diagnostic, my students and I look at their historical data together. We look at where they were at before, how they ended last year, and I give them a goal for where I'd like to see them for that first Diagnostic.

And then every week we're looking at results from their personalized learning/online instruction. At the beginning of the year, I make my expectations for online instruction time very clear. Students know that I expect them to be passing a lesson every week with a 70% pass rate for the week. I expect them to be on task and using their 45 minutes of Personalized Instruction diligently. They know that I expect them to take notes and that if they fail a lesson, we’ll go over the notes together.

Be Honest with Students

It’s impossible to have a relationship with your students without trust. I work really hard to build relationships with my students so when I’m talking to them about their data and their goals, they know that I'm not making fun of them. I'm not talking down to them. They trust that I want the best for them and that I know when they're not giving 110 percent.

I’ve had a lot of really good conversations with students about their data and effort. For example, I once had a conversation with a student who was really excited because he’d grown between his first and second Diagnostic. However, once we’d looked at his historical data together and I’d pointed out that he actually hadn’t grown because he was lower than where he was last year, he confessed that he could “probably try harder.” After that, we talked about his levels and how he could get to a higher level.

That conversation wouldn’t have been possible if I wasn’t honest with him and he wasn’t honest with me—and himself, frankly.

Classroom data-tracking board.
The data-tracking board Meghan Mayer has in her classroom

Promote Self-Efficacy with Bite-Sized Goals

I found that sharing data with students is a great way to help them build self-efficacy. Plus, if we create goals together, they’re much more motivated than if I were to tell them their goals.

Students need big goals, but they need small ones, too. The small goals help them stay motivated as they work toward big goals. The big goals might seem abstract and confusing to students, but the smaller goals are more tangible.

I show them their data and use charts and diagrams to explain where they are and where they want to be.

One thing I’ve found is that I need to steer my students away from making really specific Diagnostic goals. They don’t have control over their Diagnostic performance like they do with their online instruction, so we create goals tied to effort, improvement, and their online Personalized Instruction program instead.

I try to encourage them to think about how they focused on that first Diagnostic. I tell them to consider all the things that they’ve learned over the quarter, all of the work that we've done in small groups, everything they’ve learned. I say, “Look at your awesome lesson pass rate! Now, let’s think about how we're going to do even better than we did on the last one.”

What Next?

Explore how other educators are celebrating student achievements and tracking data on i-Ready Central® Ideas. The Ideas are i-Ready centric, but they can be adapted to work for your classroom no matter what assessment and online programs you use.

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