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How to use student data for instruction

We are consistently inspired by our partners and their commitment to providing an equitable education. Recently, we highlighted the work of educators at Moving Everest Charter School in Chicago, IL. They succinctly reminded us of how cohesive and intentional data analysis impacts students and teachers. Here are five takeaways from the video

  1. Set high expectations for students
    “We want to set high expectations and goals for kids, but then we also want to make sure we’re right there next to them helping them work towards those goals.” - Mike Rogers, Founder and Executive Director

    Students know when they’re being held to a high standard. How we set expectations for our students can not only shape how students feel about learning, but high standards can contribute to how the community sees our students. When we give students choices, share their ideas, and elevate their voices we shift power and participation.

    As educators, we have the responsibility and honor to change outcomes for students. Our work is to create structures and conditions of excellence to make sure all students, regardless of background, can feel successful in their learning. We can use the data we gather to examine whether our instruction is supporting each student in learning and demonstrating that learning at a high level; Rigor is a key piece of an equitable education.

    If you’re looking to assess the rigor in your instruction, check out this resource about ensuring rigor in mathematics.

  2. Acknowledge the challenges
    “I think it starts with acknowledging there is an issue. As we begin to have these conversations and for everyone to be aware of what we mean when we say ‘equitable practices’” - Bridget Harris, Principal 6-8

    A problem can’t be solved if no one acknowledges the problem. When everyone in the building is aligned on a shared purpose and understanding, we can move forward as one unit. The work it takes to address an issue isn’t easy. It requires leaders to create a safe environment for all staff and students to be able to say what’s working and what’s not working. Once we can all say, ‘Okay, this isn’t working,’ we can problem-solve collaboratively. 

    As you seek to develop a collaborative environment, read our blog post about a fixed or deficit mindset.

  3. A variety of data is key to painting a picture
    “Without data it’s impossible for me to do my work. Without data its impossible for teachers to do theirs, because the days of opening up a book and flipping to a page are over.” - Bridget Harris, Principal 6-8

    The students in our schools aren’t a monolith, and our data shouldn’t be either. There is no one data point that can predict all things about every student. Data analysis should be a tool to continue to create that shared mindset and ground educators in the current situations their students are experiencing. Data is not punitive or a predictor, but a temperature check to help us know what is and is not working at that moment.

    When we gather data, it’s important for us to use a variety of sources to get a clear picture of what our students need. We can use curriculum-embedded and interim assessments to help begin that journey and supplement that data with student surveys, student work or one-on-one conversations to gain both quantitative and qualitative data. This process can seem tedious at first, but in time it helps us know if we need to fill the pothole or repave the road.

    To help you discuss data in your next planning meeting, use this blog to help frame your mindset around student data.

  4. Use assessment learnings to inform instruction
    “I think there’s this idea of a pacing guide that we should follow and there’s so much that we need to accomplish in the year. However, I think using the assessment allows us to slow down and really think about how we are approaching the student learning.” -Kenyada Mason, Assistant Principal 6-8

    Assessments, when used well, are a cohesive element of the teaching and learning cycle to be in sync with each student’s progress.

    Perhaps we have identified that students have unfinished learning related to ratios. Knowing this allows us to build a clear vision for how our data will guide our unfinished teaching in this area. Through analyzing the vertical progression of the math standards and collaborating with our colleagues across grade levels, teachers in the upper grades will know where to focus their reteaching and teachers in the lower grades will help students build a strong foundational understanding of the prerequisite standards regarding ratios. We can know exactly what each student needs with surety through our assessments and know how to honor their needs.

    All assessments should support teaching and learning. If you want to review your assessment strategy to ensure that the assessments are focused on students’ needs, sign up for our paper ‘Teaching Comes First’ to guarantee your assessments are meaningful, high-quality and coherent.

  5. Students are people
    “Once we dig deep… we’re looking at our students. They’re people.” -Dr. Valencia Hutton-Barnes, ANet coach

    This isn’t a revelation. Our students are wonderful beings that deserve our time, our respect, and our effort. As an educator, we must do our part to think of our students beyond their assessment data, their backgrounds, and a handful of other factors. We as educators have the opportunity to change our students' orientation of what learning is to go beyond the limits of the school building and find the joy in learning that happens everywhere, all the time, in and out of school contexts.  Our efforts create an environment where students feel they have a voice, autonomy, and the safety to figure out who they are.

    So, who are our students, and what should be prioritized based on their needs? As you ask yourself this question, use our resource to set a student-centered vision to guide your efforts to create an empowering learning environment.

As we learn from and celebrate these educators at Moving Everest, we’re reminded that it takes all of us, together, to provide better outcomes for our students. When we let our assessment data inform our instruction and invest our energy in high quality resources; when we take time to establish a shared mindset and a unified vision; when we value our students' and teachers' time through meaningful and reflective assessments; our students have better outcomes. So, what can we do today to guarantee a better tomorrow for our students?

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