Reflection: Grade Book and Data Analysis A Final Look at the ACT Reading & Writing Sections - Section 2: Practice Reading ACT

 

Truth Time: I've got a reputation in my school for being a data weirdo.  Since I've started at my school over 3 years ago, everyone knows that I am an Excel geek.  I LOVE it.  I love trends.  I love seeing what's going right in my classroom (and identifying what is going wrong so I can fix it too!), and sometimes on really, really painfully long days like this one (when I'm delivering a post-test instead of some other invigorating activity!), data analysis is the only thing that keeps me going.  Students may whine about taking a post-test, but I know they whine substantially less than they do in other courses where they've taken 5 or 10 practice tests!  I can't imagine that kind of "practice," and I'll do everything in my power to avoid spending my time doing that.  But how do you make test scores improve without tanking hours of class time on it, you ask?  The answer is simple.  Data analysis.  I've said in earlier reflections how much more effective targeting specific skills is than trying to improve a seemingly-arbitrary number on a page, so I won't blather on about that application of data analysis again, but data analysis IS worth talking about more than a handful of times a year.  

I find myself analyzing all kinds of data in my classroom.  Here's just a snapshot of some of the things I actively track throughout the year (some of these are from the previous year as well since I'm just searching my website!):

  • Score distribution on exams within & between classes (sample)
  • Exam averages between classes (sample)
  • Year-over-year test growth for unit tests in my course (sample
  • Test-over-test individual growth for every student in my courses
  • Reading quiz averages
  • Attendance & course grade correlations (sample)
  • Class performance on assignment by type (sample)
  • Available point allocations in my courses (sample)
  • Learning preferences within & between classes (sample)
  • Course evaluations from my students (snapshot of results & survey)
  • Year-over-year quarterly grades & semester exam grades
  • Quarter-over-quarter individual growth for every student in my courses
  • Skill mastery of students in our online textbook program
  • Progress on benchmark evaluations (beginning, middle, & end of year)
  • Class participation quarter-over-quarter

Pretty much, if I find myself wondering about why something is or what I can do to improve it, I turn to data (if it's already collected) to explain it or start seeking ways to collect the data that I would need to come to a solution.  I've found that this is helpful in classroom management and to encourage student ownership, and I have also seen benefits to all of the data collection and analysis on my teaching evaluations, as evaluating our practice in light of data and student progress is figured into the model.  As we approach an era where students' test scores impact our teaching evaluations more heavily, a comfort-level with using data to improve instruction really MUST be achieved.  Several years ago, an article called "Why Teachers Must be Data Experts" by Jennifer Morrison in Educational Leadership really brought the importance of regular and routine data tracking and analysis home, and the message should be all the more pronounced a half-dozen years later.  

If you're looking to break in to using data to improve your instruction, I'd urge you to just dive in and start asking yourself questions that you have about your students' performance.  Why are their reading quiz scores so inconsistent?  Is this group of students really that much lower than last year's students?  Really, you can ask yourself just about anything to start this process.  Then, you make a list of ways that you might be able to answer your question and pull together that information.  If it's something you don't feel like you HAVE all the information on, like spotty reading quiz performance for example, feel free to take 3-4 minutes out of class to GATHER that information!  I've asked myself the reading quiz question before, and while I could easily look at class averages and individual scores for quizzes throughout the novel, I couldn't get to the "why" part as easily.  I thought maybe it had something to do with students reading or not reading or maybe the time they were reading or some other factor, but I wasn't sure.  Ultimately, rather than sit around and ponder it, I just made up a 2-minute form asking students for their thoughts on the question, and the results helped me to gain clarity on the issue that I wouldn't have otherwise gotten.  

The bottom line is that your data collection doesn't have to be a NASA-level endeavor, but it should help you to respond to issues that you see developing in your classroom and measure your effectiveness as a teacher.  I challenge you to evaluate your own use of data and then try to improve upon it.  Even creating a quick Google Form to solicit feedback from students is a GREAT way to improve your data collection and analysis habits, and it opens up a line of communication with students (and parents) that will help you later!  

  The Importance of Collecting & Analyzing Data in the 21st-Century Classroom
  Grade Book and Data Analysis: The Importance of Collecting & Analyzing Data in the 21st-Century Classroom
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A Final Look at the ACT Reading & Writing Sections

Unit 9: Is Gatsby Really so "Great"?
Lesson 8 of 12

Objective: SWBAT utilize group discussion, individualized feedback, video tutorials, and rubrics to continue preparing for the ACT and planning for their upcoming Gatsby writing project.

Big Idea: Required to do ACT Prep before "the big day"? Me too. But it doesn't have to be a waste of time...or even take up that much time to be effective!

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3 teachers like this lesson
Subject(s):
English / Language Arts, Literature, Fictional Literature, planning, technology, ACT prep
  45 minutes
done with testing
 
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