Thursday, February 07, 2013

DRIPs can lead to good conversation

This post is a commentary on the shifts that are needed in schools in order to make the role of a data coach more effective.

The shift that I will comment on is this:
  • Optional data discussions need to become essential parts of teaching and learning
If you aren't familiar with the acronym, DRIP stands for Data Rich, Information Poor. This tends to be a common problem found in schools. Schools collect so much data (student achievement, attendance, tardies, discipline, etc) that before you get results from one data collection, you are already looking to collect a new set. There seems to be no time to desegregate the data and get to the meaning of it. In the rare occasions that there is a chance to look at the meaning of the numbers, often it is an autopsy with little chance to make mid-course corrections. If this is our only experience looking at data for meaning, we may make the mistake the the data is an ending point and we just move on.

I had the chance to attend and present at the ESEA/NCLB conference in Chicago yesterday. At the luncheon, we listened to the keynote address of Dr. Robert Meyer from UW Madison. He has worked with multiple large urban school districts to develop the value-added model for student achievement. He had stated the educator effectiveness can be measured using multiple data sources, including student growth, instructional observations, and student surveys (would this include data from the 5Essentials survey?). He also recommended that you check out the Measurements of Effective Teaching from the Gates Foundation.

I think one of the best thing stated in this keynote address was his recognition that NCLB fails to recognize that when a student enters your classroom 4 grade levels below expectations and leaves only 2 grade levels below that the teacher has been effective. NCLB only looks at the benchmark score of readiness and, regardless of any growth, if you didn't hit that benchmark, you didn't do anything. The value-added model can make corrections to this error in reporting.

Meyer stated that it is meant to be teacher friendly and supportive for new teachers. Essentially, value-added is a statistical model that can separate out external factors that might lead to student growth and narrow in on the effect of the teacher. It takes the results of the previous year's assessment and will predict what the student will score in the current year. The value-added comes in when the student scores higher than what was predicted and thus, indicated the effectiveness of the teacher.

If it will work that way, great...

The other thing that Dr. Meyer stated that was beneficial is that the data report is the beginning of inquiry and not the answer to a question.

This fed right into my presentation about digital classroom walkthroughs. Walkthroughs are a great method of collecting instructional data and providing good and timely information to teachers and buildings to make mid-course corrections from the difference between our perceptions of what goes on in the classroom and what is really happening.

We have used walkthroughs for over 4 years now and when the information is presented to the staff, they begin asking questions...this is the key! They take what is now know through observations and attempt to make instructional changes in order to get more desirable results. The examination of the data leads to great questions in a non-threatening manner because individual teachers are not named. When we share the data, it is aggregate for the school or department.

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