Thursday, January 26, 2017

Painting a BIGGER Picture with Data

In a growing seismic shift in education, learning organizations are valuing, combining and applying dynamic data to better understand and serve their students and meet their unique learning needs.

SBISD leaders are increasingly focused on the power and promise data can play in delivering personalized learning experiences that prepare Every Child for T-2-4 success. Spring Branch T-2-4 is the district’s goal to double the number of students who complete a technical certificate, military training, two-year degree, or four-year degree. 

“We need both quantitative and qualitative data. There are things we need to know, things that impact student learning. Data helps us respond reasonably, rationally and appropriately,” said Melissa Stadtfeld of SBISD’s Research and Design Team.

From allocation of resources, to balancing autonomy and accountability, to program evaluation, every aspect of data use in this landscape of nuance and understanding is critical in creating the best outcome for the individual learner.

“When we look at data we have to remember every data point is a kid,” said Jennifer Collier, principal of Spring Woods High School.

“When we think about Every Child, that data has names. When we get our state test back – and we talk about kids that didn’t pass – that data has a name. Names of students. That’s why it’s so important to have an understanding of the data and a plan for how to best use it.”

Where does this plan begin? By asking the right questions.

Campuses and leaders at all levels are asking critical questions to enhance effective data use. Why are we doing the work? What do we want kids to know? How will we know if they know it? What will we do if they do get it? What will we do if they don’t get it?

Listening to Spring Woods High School Principal Jennifer Collier talk about how data has influenced action at her campus. It reveals that the ongoing investment in understanding and planning have already yielded positive results both big and small.

“We have about 600 out of 2,200 kids that are engaged in extracurricular activities,” said Collier. “We started looking at data for the 1,800 kids not in the sports programs. When we looked at the data – attendance, discipline, college-going rate – we recognized challenges,” said Collier.

Research shows that students involved in one or more extracurricular activities do better academically.

“We’re asking ourselves what we can do to create connections to the school for all kids. What can we do differently so that they feel empowered and driven to be part of the school community? If they come to school, we can teach and connect with them.”

Collier’s campus is diving deep into the details by collaborating with key system leaders to develop strategies for data use. Working in tandem with district Academic Performance and Support and Research and Design staffers, Collier and principals around the system are conducting in-depth explorations of how to use data once they have it.

“Our analysis of data led us to create an intramural sports program. We did a two-week pilot and in that two-week period attendance for this group was higher, reported incidents of discipline were lower, and kids were coming to school excited. All the things we were trying to solve took care of themselves,” she said.

“That’s just one way we used a little piece of data. We hope to use and see this kind of innovation happen in other ways on campus. Bottom line, it’s about knowing your kids and making the best decisions for the greatest possible outcomes,” said Collier.

In addition to strategies like the ones Collier uses, more than a dozen leaders throughout the system are leveraging the norm-referenced Measures of Academic Progress, or MAP, assessment to drive and shape their instruction.

“The thing about MAP is that it adapts to determine skills and shows you what students do know, instead of just what they don’t. Normal standardized testing leaves you simply knowing what students don’t know. With MAP you can actually identify gaps and see a detailed picture of where the student is,” noted Northbrook Middle School Principal Sarah Guerrero.

“Our primary use of MAP data is focused on supporting literacy and student achievement in reading. We’re using one-on-one student monitoring in conjunction with MAP. MAP helps us test our monitoring and check what we’re on target and serving actual student need.”

This deeper use of data is having a powerful influence on the student learning experience; it’s creating pride of achievement and a level of empowerment that didn’t exist before.

“It’s motivating for the kids. I’ve had kids tell me their best class is reading. These are kids that have faced challenges in reading historically. For them to say this lets us know it’s working and empowering for them,” said Guerrero.

With this increased insight comes increased capacity for educators and students to transform data into action, to collaborate, to learn and to empower each other in the work of supporting growth and achievement.

“Our job as educators is to effectively respond to that (student) story. It’s all about painting that big picture,” said Collier. “We need to paint our picture using data that is valid, strong, authentic and connected.

That’s where Stadtfeld’s support as a facilitator in this process is so critical in turning data into action.

“If we don’t address all of the pieces of the story, then we’re not going to be able to help them to achieve their fullest potential,” she said.

Principal Collier agrees.

“As a system, we must have multiple measures to define student growth and student success,” she said. “When we talk about multiple measures, it’s about overlaying data from the day-to-day assessment with those snapshot assessment (STAAR) moments. This combination provides us the ability to analyze the need and develop real solutions.”

Even in the midst of talking about data points, use of technology, analysis, and strategy, Collier holds fast to what attracts so many great educators to the profession and what keeps her in Spring Branch.

“I know my commitment to kids. I know my staff’s commitment to kids,” she said. “I know the level to which we’re dedicated to creating great outcomes for every child. I know data is going to help us do that. We must take the time to understand kids and paint the bigger picture to move forward in doing what’s right for kids. That is what this is all about.”

For more information about SBISD's strategic plan, The Learner's Journey, click here.


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