Assessments are useless unless you do something with the data. It is not enough to administer assessments to students and then create colorful graphs and charts that display the data. Data must be filtered down in order to see trends, outliers, areas of opportunity, and areas of strength. Overall all percentage numbers are just a starting point. We need to go deeper to uncover the root of the problem, not just look at the symptoms. Above all, data must be acted upon.
Here are five ways to filter assessment data:
- By Domain
The first filtering method should be taking a look at the data by domain. Common Core State Standards are grouped first by domain and then by standard. To give an example, here are the domains for 3rd grade mathematics:
- Operations and Algebraic Thinking
- Numbers and Operations in Base Ten
- Numbers and Operations – Fractions
- Measurement and Data
By taking a look at assessment data by domain, you can get a bird’s eye view of student performance. From here, teachers can target specific domains based on need.
- By Standard
Domains are comprised of individual standards. The number of standards in each subject area and grade level varies. By going deeper into this level of analysis, you can pinpoint which standards were understood and which ones need further review. Intervention lessons can be created for specific standards rather than re-teaching broad concepts. Some questions to ask at this level would be:
- Did I give this standard enough instructional time?
- Is this standard taught during this assessment cycle?
- Did other teachers in the grade level / department have the same or different results?
- How does this data compare with standard data from past assessments?
- By Student
It is important to not reduce students to an assessment number. Educators must look at the results for individual students, always remembering that these students have a name, a background, and tangible strengths and weaknesses. Some questions to ask would be:
- Am I surprised at the results for this student?
- Did they improve from the last assessment or fall behind?
- What standards will this student need additional support for?
- What other students underperformed on the same standards?
- What support structures need to be in place for their student to be successful?
- By Student Subgroup
It is vital that we continue to dig deeper. By filtering into student subgroups, we can pinpoint if our instruction is reaching all our students or just some. Some examples of student subgroups are:
- Special Education
- Language Proficiency
Some questions to consider would be:
- Who am I reaching? Who am I not?
- Am I providing enough scaffolding for my English Language Learners?
- Am I presenting culturally relevant content?
- Is their an achievement gap in my classroom / school / district?
- Are inclusion measures working or do they need to be revised?
5. By Teacher
This is the tricky one. Differences between classrooms at the same grade level or in the same department can create uncomfortable conversations. However, it is vital that educator explore all aspects of assessment data. If this is occurring, the following questions must be asked:
- Were the classes evenly leveled by academic achievement at the beginning of the year? Are they still even?
- What are the differences in instructional methods between the two classrooms?
- What supports does the teacher with the lower assessment scores need?
Remember to look at data clinically, not critically. Finger pointing and blaming will serve no one any good and create an atmosphere of tension.
Dr. David Franklin is an experienced school administrator, education professor, curriculum designer, and presenter. Dr. Franklin has presented at national and international education conferences as is available for school and district professional development sessions.
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