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Thursday, March 29, 2012

A New Teacher's Perspective: A Little Known Reason to Use Data in the Classroom

Whew. I went to bed at 7 last night and I'm feeling much better. I basically relied on fake enthusiasm to get through the day, and it worked. No major meltdowns (which have been almost daily for one of mine lately) and my lowest kid finally made it past 50 words a minute! (Yes, the goal for the end of the year is 90, but he was stuck in the high 20's/ early 30's for so long that this is a HUGE victory!)

I know some teachers that hate data-driven education because it can be so much extra work and time to individually assess each kid. And it definitely can eat up a lot of time. But my first teaching job was at a school that had been labeled "failing" four years running, and I was hired as an interventionist (along with 5 or 6 others) to help turn it around. My job and that school required constant data, and while it was a lot to fit in, we ALWAYS knew how each child was doing on every reading and math standard and in reading fluency. Our groups for researching and RTI were changing every 3 weeks at least.

My new school is terrific, but it is just starting to work with so much data. Many of the teachers here aren't excited about taking data or don't really know how to use it. It is nice to have less testing, but I've grown accustomed to the knowledge that comes with so much data, so I try to fit in what I can.

One of the best things about data is one that you will never find in a scientific article or newspaper piece on school reform. Data gives me feedback on how to teach better, but data also builds my confidence so much, because I can tell that these kids really are making progress because of me. As a new teacher, data gives me validation that I am doing something right. In some cases, it gives me validation that just because one kiddo is going nowhere, the other kids' scores show that my teaching isn't useless.

Data also gives you ammunition to advocate for a child, whether it can be with parents, a medical professional, or another educator. It can give the student a way to build confidence and motivate extra effort, too. The biggest thing data offers, though, is feedback about what worked and what didn't. Of course, every teacher needs to look at what didn't work so they can improve or reteach, but I think for new teachers, the other is just as important.

It's so valuable to remember that even when you feel like you're treading water, and grade card time is wearing you down, you have done something for these children. And data is the perfect, objective way for you to prove it to yourself.

Yesterday, when I was feeling so down on myself as a teacher, that new data point made me stop sulking and start celebrating my accomplishments this year. I plan on improving- this year and every year of teaching- but I can still celebrate what I've done so far, and I'm so glad this kid helped me remember to do it.


  1. I appreciate your thoughts on data! I believe data to be an important and objective way to know where your students are at at any given time. :)
    Conversations in Literacy

    1. Once I got used to having so much information on my students, it has been tough to not have as much this year. I think most teachers, once they get used to it, must realize how valuable data is!


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