Educators and administrators at Little Silver Public Schools in New Jersey rely heavily on data to inform instruction and ultimately drive student achievement. However, for this process to be successful, Director of Curriculum and Instruction Angie Rosen emphasized the data has to be used with integrity.
“In education, you can’t just talk about numbers—you have to use the data available to form an understanding of why a student is performing at a certain level, and then discuss ways to move them forward,” said Rosen. “It’s all part of a bigger picture.”
To help see the bigger picture, the district holds regular meetings with its 18-person data committee to really delve into student performance. This includes district leaders and one teacher from every grade level, in addition to a representative from other areas such as special education.
Below are three ways the district ensures these meetings are collaborative, actionable, and meaningful.
1. Analyze grade-level data. During the meetings, the committee collates and analyzes multiple measures of data from sources such as the New Jersey Student Learning Assessments and i-Ready to get a clear picture of student performance and grade-level trends.
“Rather than focusing on school-level trends, we really home in on what is happening across each grade,” said Rosen.
The team goes through the data to see if there is alignment between the data and students’ report card grades and to see if there are any surprise findings that need to be addressed.
2. Ask the right questions. Collaborative dialogue is central to the data meetings. In addition to identifying and analyzing grade-level trends, the committee will ask and discuss a number of questions. At midyear meetings, for example, questions can include:
- Who is making progress? What interventions are currently in place?
- Who is not making progress? What types of instructional changes might be helpful for these students?
- How will the reteaching be different from the initial instruction? How will it be measured?
- What intervention is having a positive impact?
- What changes in instruction or programing are needed?
- What is being used for tests, and how are grades determined?
“It is important to see if the instructional practices we have in place are having a measurable impact,” said Rosen.
3. Form concrete next steps. After each meeting, an action plan is created for the grade-level representatives to take back and share with their colleagues. This includes specific, grade-level instructional steps, such as differentiating and grouping students based on their strengths, having conferences with each student after their next Diagnostic, and implementing more small group instruction.
“It’s all about creating goals and then working toward them,” said Rosen. “We want our committee members to be prepared to talk about the steps taken and the progress made during our next meeting.”
The district also encourages strong family–teacher communication. This includes teachers having conversations with families before any reports go home, so families are completely up to speed on everything going on with their student and have the opportunity to ask questions.
“From informing instruction to enhancing communication, we are really just trying to use data in every way possible to best support our students,” said Rosen.