As part of our shift to behaving more like a standards-based school, we have continued our work to dedicate a significant portion our professional development time to looking at student work (LASW) to improve our practice.  Part of improving our focus of LASW was to build into our district’s strategic improvement plan a strategic initiative around establishing a system of common assessments and student achievement data analysis.  Specifically, we have been working toward creating a system for collecting and analyzing data.

Analyzing data is not new to most teachers in MCAS subjects.  There is some familiarity to looking through item analysis and finding strengths and weaknesses in specific MCAS sorted standards.  However, the collecting portion of the exercise can be time consuming and stressful if it is not completed in an efficient way.  Over the last few weeks our teachers have been administering their common assessments and documenting results based on department specific focuses.  Some departments had one specific focus, for example, English focused on writing and Business focused on presentation skills.  Other departments focused on a specific assessment with a fixed number of questions sorted by the courses they taught.  Needless to say, this was the first time that every teacher would be collecting data for all four courses that they taught.

One of my goals was to ensure that the collection process was as easy as possible for the teachers that I work with.  As a leadership team, we shared ideas on what types of data to collect and specific departments were given flexibility to look at summary data or specific item analysis.  We decided that if teachers did not want their names attached to data to be shown to other members in their department that we would honor that request.  I had the pleasure of working with the English and Business departments to create spreadsheets for individual teachers and summary sheets for the departments as a whole based on the specific rubrics they had scored for the common assessment.  This process was about each individual teacher reviewing their data and possibly some summary data using a protocol to gather feedback from colleagues so that they can reflect on their teaching practice and make adjustments to improve.

As a leadership team, we decided that everyone would use the Looking at Data protocol with their departments as a whole during the first portion of our professional development time.  If time permitted (which it didn’t in most cases) different cohorts could choose between the Tuning protocol and the Looking at Patterns protocol to continue to LASW in smaller teams.  The protocols we use are from School Reform Initiative Incorporated.

The conversations that I had the opportunity to observe were excellent and focused on improvement.  Judith Warren Little’s Level-four collaboration is always a goal.  During and after the protocols, I observed teachers discussing strategies they could use to improve weaker areas and sharing ideas from colleagues that led to higher results.  Cohorts were able to leave with different strategies to improve the skills based on the data and the discussion around teaching practice.

The need to use time to discuss course recommendation practices, look at student work to norm our practice and use different types of formative assessments also came up.  The next step is to have conversations with cohorts and departments about having these discussions and LASW at times other than professional development.

We had a very successful day with the use of data to inform us so we can continue to make positive decisions within our practice.  I look forward to observing and participating in additional level-four collaboration with our teachers.  I also look forward to our next leadership meeting where we will get a chance to share the implementation of the other protocols and data that was presented.  We should be able to learn a lot from each other.  Isn’t that what it is all about?