Joined: 18 Jul 2011
Graphing Student Gains
As educators, the buzzword data should be enough to burn ears by now. But, I feel as though it really does drive the instruction. For example, would you take your own child to compete in a swimming relay race if she had never learned how to swim? How about if your junior high son wanted to try out for the Major League without having played on any organized team in the past? By finding out what skill level each of your students is currently learning in, you will have a road map to take you to the correct destination without going way out of the way or making unnecessary pit stops.
Step One: Devise a master assessment of all skills needed to be learned for the entire school year in each subject. I currently have a test for reading, one for math, social studies, science, etc. This will be a big project, but once completed, the hard work will be out of the way. I suggest getting ideas from sample tests on the Internet, test prep materials your school may own, or examples of such assessments already created by other teachers in your district. If yours is a grade level that has a state-level standardized assessment, it will be pretty simple to find some resources.
Normally, I am more about authentic assessment, but in the interest of grading time and typical standardized testing formats, I suggest a multiple-choice exam that contains no more than 50 questions. Find a varying amount of skill level questions to cover in your exam. Remember this is a comprehensive exam; so make sure to include questions from the entire school year.
Step Two: At the beginning of the year, give the exam cold. Please remind students it will not be taken as a grade, but rather just a "show what you know" type of test, and also that it is typical to earn a 30% or lower. The first week of school is wonderful for this because most teachers are typically introducing routines into the schedule, and getting to know the students rather than teaching much content. It is best to get this out of the way as quickly as possible. Some self-contained classroom teachers may feel as though they are testing the entire first week. It is long, but the results will be worth every second spent.
Step Three: After all students have finished, it is time to "grade" the exams. This is when it is especially helpful to have used multiple choice. From the results, which should not be astronomical, create a graph for each subject tested that shows the percentage of students in the class that received 0-20%, 21-40%, 41-60%, 61-80%, and 81-100%. This is your baseline data. Trust me, that when this activity is repeated, the students, will be thrilled to see the progress. Really take a look at your high-risk and high-achieving students. This information is invaluable.
Step Four: Post your graphs in a prominent place. Explain to the students that the goal is to increase the bars and have them move to the right side of the graph. Repeat the process after winter break, and once more at the end of the school year. Keep all graphs to continually compare and prepare to be amazed!
How do you use data to drive your instruction? Tell us at the Primary Grades Group! See you there!