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Schoolwide Structures for Using Data with Students

Sheela Webster, Principal of World of Inquiry School # 58 in Rochester, NY, describes her school's integrated approach to using data with students.

This video accompanies the book Leaders of Their Own Learning: Transforming Schools through Student-Engaged Assessment.


- We just are inundated with data, and the stacks of papers that come with it. And, our goal was to take those stacks of papers and numbers and connect it to a real child. So, now that teacher can say okay, this is Sam, and these numbers belong to Sam. And, I know Sam has all these additional other strengths or needs, in addition to those numbers that I see. And, what will I do now, as his teacher, his keeper, to move Sam from where he is to the next step.

- Yes, perfect.

- The use of data has really been a growth process with us, and it was very difficult to have conversations around instruction without it becoming a personal attack. We realized that when you talk about instruction, with a particular teacher, or a group of teachers, teachers really struggle with separating that from who they are, as a person. The data now becomes a component that belongs to the child, and it’s not the teacher’s fault. And, we try to look at ways that we can meet the child where they are, and as a group of educators, which includes the classroom, teacher, the instructional specialist, the administrators, and any other adult that may be supporting that child, to come together, know who this child is, and who he or she is, as a learner, and talk about instructional practice, and how we can move it forward. We traditionally have established grade level meetings, here, for our elementary team. And, as we started to grow out, to us it was a non-negotiable that we would have grade level team meetings with our secondary teams as well. So, we basically just built it into the master schedule, and the seventh grade, eighth grade, ninth grade teams come at a particular time, and they come as a team, not as a discipline. And, the component behind that is really about making sure that each person on that team fully understands each child, regardless of content area specialty, saying this is my child, too. I really think that it begins with school leaders believing that the data’s important, okay? That it’s important enough that you’re going to allocate resources to it. And, for us it was allocating staffing resources. So, we made a conscious decision to have a specialist role. And, there’s an instructional specialist for math, and an instructional specialist for language arts. And, they are the keepers of the data. They take the data, make it teacher friendly, and they roll it out to teachers, and they allow, now, teachers to take ownership of the pieces that can translate into instructional practice.

- Really the kids that were in the twos.

- And, they support that instructional practice with coaching, with professional development, with reviewing of data on an ongoing basis, going in and working with kids in those particular classrooms. And, once you make it teacher friendly then teachers begin to own that data.

- Most of you took your DRA on January 13th, and then...

- And, the press there is now complete the cycle and bring it to the kids. Because they are really the actual owner of that data. ‘Cause that data belongs to them. So, finding ways to share that data with kids, so that it’s meaningful to them, and they can own it and say, oh, this is where I am. This is where I need to go, and this is how I’m gonna get there. And, I’m gonna get the support to make it happen.

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