the new buzz word…data

I’ve done a few talks about schools and teachers using data to drive their focus on individual needs in the classroom and it seems that there is always some form of data being used to drive instruction but the question is is it truely steering instruction towards the needs of each individual?  There are a lot of schools basing their decisions on OCCT scores, STAR Reading results (zpd) and BEAR assessments.  This is a means to see the red flag with a child and make sure they are receiving intervention but this isn’t the type of data I’m referring to.

Some schools are using DIBELS, AIMSweb or Literacy First.  These assessments produce data that is more in line with the types of data I am referencing.  Where the five aspects of literacy (phonemic awareness, phonics, reading fluency, vocabulary development and reading comprehension) are assessed on a regular basis and this data is used to steer flexible groupings of students to meet their literacy needs.

Data seems to be the new buzz word in Oklahoma education.  With the release of Oklahoma C3 Standards, field tests in writing and Social Studies and the announcement of the PARCC Assessments in 14 – 15, districts are scrambling to get instruction headed in the direction needed for student success.  Instruction is low on the priorities list though with TLE and A-F taking precidence.  Teachers are seeing all this change as a mountian that has been placed before them with layers being continously added making the summit seemingly obscured.  It is my argument that although there have been many obstacles placed before us as educators that they aren’t several hurdles to overcome but one intertwined barbed fence that once a hole is identified the obstacle doesn’t seem so daunting and that the barbs aren’t sharp at all but simply prods to assist in directional decisions towards a common end.  It is my belief that our focus, as teachers, shouldn’t be on TLE or A-F but whether our early literacy curriculum is meeting the literacy needs of our students?  Are they getting the five aspects of reading instruction?  Are our older learners, who are struggling, needing specific targeted instruction?  Do we have the means to identify what the needs of our struggling learners are at all levels?  If not, what are those means?  When our curriculum and instruction meet the needs of our students then our teaching is effective, and therefore, our Teacher/Leader Evaluations (TLE) will mirror that effectiveness and our A-F Report Cards will too.  Data is the means for judging the effectivness of our curriculum and instruction.  When the PARCC Assessment comes in 14 -15 our students might not perform their best the first year or even the second or third but by tracking growth, or regression, we will we will have evidence that identifies a path that will ensure success in the future with the goal of having all students College, Career and Community ready in 2020.

The following are resources for you to peruse that I find encouraging and will assist in further understanding of the path I am suggesting:

Whole Language High Jinks by Louisa Moats

“Teachers are likely to do best with materials that provide for the direct teaching of a target skill within a logical sequence; that give sufficient guided practice with corrective feedback for the student; and that monitor independent practice.  In most programs, built-in assessments are also provided, which tell the teacher when reteaching or small-group intervention is needed to ensure student progress.”

Consumer’s Guide to Evaluating a Core Reading Program K-3: A Critical Elements Anaylsis

Pre-reading Probes (individual one-on-one assessments)

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