Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Data Review--Evaluation or Judgement?

This week in our staff meeting we had a chance to see the charts that showed the results of our Explore and Plan tests. This year our 7th through 10th graders took one of these tests. Each students was tested in English, Reading, Math and Science. Before I go on, I have to remind everyone that we are a PreK through 12th grade school. We are also school wide Title I school with approximately 43% ELL (English Language Learners)

We were sitting together. Data charts are displayed on the Smartboard. Slide by slide we are given information about our school and how we compare to the other schools our management company runs. Many teachers are puzzled. One speaks up and says that it is really difficult to figure out what to focus on as the results of NWEA testing show almost the exact opposite of these results that we are seeing today.

Does a too great emphasis on one particular test take away good teaching? Are we being focused on certain results as we know that our evaluation depends on those results?

Someone speaks up and says: "Do we need to change our strategies or the whole curriculum?"
Another one comments, "We should just use Explore and Plan type of questions as bellwork. Students need more practice."

Then my interest peaks as we are now looking at slides that compare ELL students to non-ELL students. Needless to say, ELL students score lower than non-ELL students. Did this really surprise anyone?

This is the response that we heard at the meeting: "What are we going to do to teach our ELLs the content faster? Nobody will listen to the excuse that they are not proficient in English."

If you have ever taught ELLs you know that every ELL learns with different speed. I have had students who after a few months are acting, sounding and producing work like many of their native counterparts. But I have also had students who after many years still struggle with the very basics of English language. What kind of burden we are placing on these students when we expect them to produce miracle results in just one to two years?

The meeting was over. We heard a reminder that we will be analyzing data more carefully in our next PD in May. I am wondering what will change? What more will we be asked to do? Wonder if we will hear any good news or get any words of encouragement?  There was a definite warning in the air--improve or......

25 comments:

  1. Jaana,
    I linked your blog to mine this morning. There is so much data in so many classrooms. How is it being used to help make decisions about instruction? How should it be used? So many questions this morning!

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    1. How is data being used? That is the million dollar question. How seriously do I take the data of my ELLs in standardized tests where they guessed almost every--if not every--answer? I think I have more questions:)

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  2. Oh, this is SO sad - you know what really makes a difference for these students, but are you given the freedom and the power to provide it? More data = more tests = less time to read and get better at reading.

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    1. You are right Tara. We need more time to practice reading before being forced to take these meaningless tests where guessing is the norm.

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  3. I'm going to believe that this will all go away, it's just a matter of time but do we have the patience and can we afford to wait for a time when we move on to digital portfolios and use precious classroom time to really prepare kids for their worlds. I've been reading too much Mind Shift :)

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    1. I will cling to the hope that you mention!

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  4. Just one more example of how test oriented we have become. We know our students. We know how they learn and how to help them succeed. Maybe one day someone will listen to us.

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    1. I will cling to that hope as well!

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  5. I feel your pain. We need data to inform instruction but when the data is conflicting, it's trouble and crazy making. What makes me sad is when we look at so much data, but ignore so much of what research says -- reading more will make better readers.

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    1. Reading more!!!!! This is what I want to do! But my ELLs also need time to improve their oral language so that they can have the skills to read better in the future.

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  6. This is a plight that it seems so many teachers share. Sometimes the focus on data and testing scares me. I often wonder how I will deal with this if I get a full-time teaching job next year. It seems so disheartening and frustrating to teachers. I can sense your discouragement. I hope that you DO get some words of encouragement in your next meeting. Seems like there should always be a place for encouragement and positive feedback, even if the numbers are "down."

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    1. My positive encouragement came today when on of the teachers sent me an e-mail telling what great improvements one of ELLs in her class had made in NWEA math!!! I rejoice in the smalls if I can't have big things!

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  7. Why does a test taken one day have the power to derail good teaching? This is just so frustrating!

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  8. Triangulating your data might help … looking a multiple data points - both different types of assessments and data over time - will help you understand the story of your readers. Keep wondering, asking questions and using data to dig deeper. We hope it is about neither evaluaiton or judgement -- understanding is our goal. Thanks for sharing your story and try to keep it all in perspective.
    Clare and Tammy

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    1. Understanding might be our goal, but evaluation is the goal of administration!

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  9. I can hear and relate to your frustration. We started our second round of testing today and it just makes me wonder what is the point? Your comment about testing taking away good teaching. I think it does. I have tried this year to eliminate or at least lessen the amount of test prep and just use good solid teaching. But it is hard not to fall back into that "testing trap." I hope you do get words of encouragement - I know you deserve them.

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    1. I still have to do a "little" review before my students take their final NWEA test this spring. But until then, I am just teaching!

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  10. Best wishes, Jaana. I hear from the other perspective, my grandson and his testing woes. It doesn't make him like school any better. I hope that someone can see that teachers are the ones who know the students, not tests.

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    1. We have students who just don't care about the tests, and thus make us teachers look bad. How to motivate the students to take ALL the tests seriously is another issue.

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  11. I'm so sick of data. All we ever do it take data and never interpret the results- just more and more data that is taking away from instruction time. It's so crazy. We need to go back to the basics- let's just have them read and write. I understand the importance of assessment, but this is just getting silly.

    You are not alone.

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    1. I hear you! Assessment is okay, but not every month!

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  12. I hate to say it but I left teaching because I really hated the emphasis on test scores/teaching to,the test/improving scores/data/data/data! Kids need to learn yes, but they also need art, drama, music, great books and time to find what they love. ELL students need the time as well to immerse themselves in their new language.

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  13. It's good for now, testing over, data check over. Breathe, read. Next year it might be better to have a talk about the purpose of testing, implication of test results, and what really matters before the first test even begins

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