Teacher’s Corner – Data-driven, Decision-making Organizations

Reflect on the last time you looked at student data from your classroom. Was it today? Yesterday? Last week? Or last month? Most likely, you look at student data of some kind every day, how might you analyze the data to determine the story the data tells? Data often needs interpretation, context, and deep thinking. As a classroom teacher, your time is valuable and filled with responsibilities for teaching, assessing, supporting, guiding, and questioning. Exploring data stories can help. 

Grades, attendance, behavioral data, intervention data, assessment data, and even what you and others observe your students doing daily in the classroom, all are sources of data stories. All data tells a story, you just need to uncover the wealth of knowledge hidden beneath the surface. Some data stories are uplifting and help you recognize the growth an individual student or group of students have made. Other data stories unveil barriers to learning that students may be facing. Either way, data tells you the current state and allows you to determine how you move forward for each student or each class. That is the beauty of teaching, in some respects each day is new. A new opportunity to touch the life of a child, help them learn, encourage curiosity, and support their growth. 

To begin unearthing data stories, ask yourself what a set of data is telling you about a student or group of students and if the story is one of growth and improvement or does it tell of struggles and barriers. Using multiple data sets, collected and analyzed over time, provides a more complete story.  Learning has twists and turns, ups and downs, ebbs and flows. Used appropriately, learning data should do the same: reflect on the journey your students take each year and the adventures that cohorts of students take over the years. So expand your storytelling to a variety of data and look for trends and nuances that enhance the stories you tell. All data stories lead to questions about how you will respond based on the story being told. Data stories often lead to actions for both you and the student. What do you need to do to support the student to grow and thrive? What can the student do to enhance their own probability of success? 

Share your data stories and the steps you plan to take with colleagues. Ask for their input and suggestions. Inquire about the data stories they are creating for their own students. Thinking of data as information that has an important story to tell, provides you with a simple frame to begin holding data conversations with your colleagues. These frequent data conversations with colleagues will support your building and district in growing a feeling of community and build collective responsibility for the success of each child.

“Data are just summaries of thousands of stories – tell a few of those stories to help make the data meaningful.”

~Chip and Dan Heath

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