Data Rich, Decision Poor
By Lissette Read, Former Educator & Curriculum Specialist
Throughout my twenty-five years as an educator in one of the largest and most diverse school districts in the U.S., I was afforded ample opportunities to observe and reflect upon a wide array of instructional practices. Often, these observational sessions were followed by collaborative conversations, which included data analysis and structured feedback for teachers and school site administrators alike.
Data Rich, Decision Poor
It became very evident to me that teachers, as well as school site administrators, were amassing a significant pool of student performance data without a plan for how to effectively utilize the data to inform and differentiate instruction. This practice of administering assessments for the sake of “administering assessments” resulted in a “Data Rich, Decision Poor” situation that came at a very high price — the loss of crucial instructional time devoid of any return on investment.
Gaining an understanding of the purpose of each of these assessments was one of the most effective ways of streamlining assessments, and, in turn, yielding student data that would effectively inform instruction to meet the needs of all learners.
But where do we begin?
We begin with a Broad Screener, which provides baseline data to facilitate insights about which students are on track to master on-grade skills, which students need additional support, and which students require the administering of additional diagnostic assessments to determine instructional gaps.
What comes next?
Placement and diagnostic assessments pinpoint instructional gaps that prevent students from gathering meaning from text. For districts concerned with the Science of Reading, these assessments are particularly important, because they pinpoint which thread of Scarborough’s Reading Rope needs to be intentionally activated.
How do we keep the pulse on instruction?
We use real-time data from ongoing progress monitoring, as well as formative assessments ingrained in daily instruction. Real-time data allows us to pivot our instruction to ensure we can provide intervention and extension opportunities when needed.
What is the final step?
We can determine students’ trajectory toward mastering on-grade-level skills through benchmark assessments. These benchmark assessments mirror how students will ultimately demonstrate mastery of skills.
At each point of this targeted assessment cycle, the use of data to identify students that would benefit from intervention and extension opportunities ensures all individuals receive the instruction they need when they need it.
I have learned many lessons throughout my career and the result of those experiences has led me to develop a philosophy of education that continues to be my guiding principle: I believe ALL students can learn and it is up to us as educators to facilitate the right instruction at the right time by utilizing student data effectively to ensure all students reach their full potential.
Mrs. Read is a graduate of Nova Southeastern University in South Florida; in 2004 she completed a master’s degree in educational leadership with a concentration in Curriculum and Instruction. Mrs. Read has 25 years of experience in the field, serving as a teacher, literacy coach and district curriculum and instruction supervisor with Miami Dade County Public Schools (MDCPS), prior to joining McGraw Hill as a curriculum specialist.
During her time with MDCPS she implemented and supervised research-based programs for the district as well as provided support to the most deficient schools in the district. At these schools, she worked alongside teachers and administrators within a very culturally diverse and low socio-economic demographic. Her strategic, in-depth support included the implementation of research/evidence-based instructional practices for second language learners and the district’s most academically fragile students. This support included providing structured feedback facilitated by data analysis sessions with teachers and school site administrators.