As teachers, we are inundated with data. Multiple times a year, we are asked to set teaching and content aside to spend hours (and sometimes days) assessing students. Some of these assessments are more useful than others but rarely are the assessments optional. Whether we agree or disagree with standardized assessments, and the time it takes from our classroom, it is up to us to find value in the numbers.
Bless the Tests…
An article by the Fordham institute in 2015 identified 3 key reasons for standardized testing: Objectivity, comparability, and accountability. My special educator’s heart cried a little at this. Testing can provide so much more than an objective way to compare student performance to expectations while holding schools accountable for growth. I haven’t met a teacher yet that begins their day hoping that students fall behind.
Standardized assessments provide so much more than a moment-in-time piece of data. Unfortunately, teachers are oftentimes trained only on the administration of the assessments, while analysis is pushed to the side. When teachers are able to analyze the data to support student growth, standardized assessments become more meaningful in the classroom.
Cognitive Tools at Work
Standardized assessments help teachers discover the lagging skill, identify the cognitive tools at work, and design supports moving forward. Recently, our team was problem-solving how to help a struggling student. Nate was falling further and further behind with his schoolwork and recently emailed a teacher admitting he was having a hard time focusing in class. The teachers were trying EVERYTHING! They were checking in with him, frequently prompting him, and had provided all the notes ahead of time. But, Nate was not improving. I’ll admit, there was a level of frustration in the room and the teachers questioned if Nate was putting in the effort.
Then… we pulled the data. When we looked at his trends and where he had previously been successful we found that he had a strong understanding of data. Unfortunately, over the past year, he seemed to have regressed in both comprehension and algebraic thinking. Our team questioned if his challenge to engage with remote learning last spring and this fall could have contributed to this. We chose to design a plan that would support his reasoning skills while tapping into his strengths in vocabulary. The teachers each chose a graphic organizer to help Nate with organizing his thoughts prior to beginning independent assignments. Knowing this was a lot of work for him, they reduced his overall assignment in favor of targeting his verbal reasoning skills.
Phew! Talk about a lot of work. What may seem like it took our team a long to get to this point, we found relief in knowing that our approach was intentional and would target errors that we believe he was experiencing struggles which caused lagging skills. No more competing demands for Nate! Go, Team!
Make sure to grab the data analysis template we used for free here.