For anyone who has worked in the education sector, they can tell you how stressful and taxing spring-season can be. With the state-mandated test coming up in just a few weeks, many teachers and administrators are on-edge in best preparing their students for the exam of their life. As much as we do not want to put the pressure on our scholars to perform, the mentality and expectation for our student’s performances dictate the overall value and worth a teacher has in the classroom. This negative mentality has of course pushed some teachers to transition their lesson plans from an authentic foundational learning to a more test-driven execution. While I can go on-and-on about the negatives with test-driven lesson planning, the one big thing that this approach has done to benefit the education sector is the student data and the meaning it holds for our future leaders for tomorrow.
Large-scale assessments, like the state-mandated test, are always designed for a specific purpose. While they of course are utilized to help rank and order schools and students for accountable-subjects and benchmarks, they also provide the schools and educators with the tools and instruments to identify the strengths and weaknesses for each individual student. This in turn allows educators to improve their daily instructions and pinpoint specific areas that can best benefit and shape the overall foundation of a student. Yet, with such a strong benefit, most teachers and professional developments do not explicitly focus on the data. In fact, many teachers are either unaware of how to get the data or unsure what to do with the data when they finally get it.
What teachers need to first understand is the overall impact that the data can have on the learning achievement of their classrooms. For teachers, the best classroom assessments serve as a meaningful source of information. They help identify what you have taught and what needs refining. Through the data, the assessments, especially state-assessments, reveal specific item-by-item or subject-by-subject information. This information will identify your entire class’s strengths, your entire class’s weaknesses, each individual student’s strength, and last but not least each individual student’s weaknesses. By using that data you are able to focus specifically on what you can do to improve the entire class as a whole. But before you get into that, you need to of course internalize the overall information given.
Start off by reviewing the data holistically. Look at the information for the entire class and begin asking yourself a set of questions: What was the highest score? Which class scored the best overall? What was my lowest performing class? What was my class’s biggest weakness? Did my students meet my expectation? If not, how can they improve (or how can you improve for them)?
By asking yourself these overarching questions, you will be able to determine any weaknesses in your lesson plan. In addition, you will be able to refine and improve your lesson plan that can best benefit all of your classes. Remember, Einstein once said that, “Everybody is a genius. But it you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” This means that each class (or each student) has their own way of learning. With your data, you want to make sure that you are leveraging the information in providing the best instructions for each specific class. Some classes may require a slower pace, while other may demand higher rigor. Whatever is the case, make sure you focus on the individual than assume for the whole.
Once you have asked those overarching questions, now you will be able to implement that necessary strategy in your lesson plan. For this to be beneficial try and break your students into three groups: Higher, Middle and Lower. These three groups will indicate your high-risk students: students that will require the most teacher-led attention. For many successful and impactful teachers, they utilize these groups during Differentiated Instructions. To learn more about Differentiated Instructions, please review this article here. It will go over the foundational aspect of breaking students into groups and teaching impactful lessons in each of these groups.
After desegregating the data and your students into three groups, especially for Differentiated Instructions, it is absolutely vital that you continue to track and reassess your students. Part of using student data for your lesson plans is to help improve your student’s knowledge during time. Once you have focused and isolated a specific weakness, aid, support, and reassess how well the student understands the skills and or lesson. If you find that they are still having difficulty, you may have to go back and reassess your own lesson. If, however, you find that they were able to improve, continue your tactics until the skill and lesson is mastered.
To fully master a concept, you want to make sure your students are repeating the task through multiple situations. Make sure you use all of your data to plan your future teaching practice. Put what you know from the beginning of the year with what you are seeing currently and repeat that process. Usually one-and-done sittings are never beneficial for student achievement. Instead, constant practice, tracking, and evaluating will help benefit your scholars as a whole.