When Average Isn't Good Enough

I learned some interesting things from my data recently that I'd like to share with the blogosphere. According to SAS's crunching of Ohio Achievement Assessment data, I have been ranked average. My initial reaction to this was, “Yikes!” I've always been a pretty good student; an over-achiever, even. So, I was pretty bummed when I opened up my value-added teacher report to find that I'd been ranked average among my peers in the state as far as producing student growth in learning. (see here if you haven't gotten yours, teachers of math or reading grades 4-8).

But after I quit sulking, I got busy. Say what you will about standardized tests and teacher rankings, the reality is they are here to stay and there is a lot of useful information in these reports.

This is my teacher value-added report:


It shows me that, overall, my kids are making about as much progress as is to be expected in one year. In other words, average. Not bad; but not great, either. Considering I had and still do have a number of kids who didn't pass the OAA reading test, average growth is still not enough for some of my kids. I am doing alright, but I know I can be better.

Now I dig a little deeper and view my teacher diagnostic report. This breaks my kids down into tertiles (thirds) according to prior-achievement. Overall, I'm producing growth in my high-end kids but not so much in my middle kids. (Note: I don't have enough kids in the first tertile to produce an analysis.)


Reflecting on last year, this actually makes sense. I have a lot of lofty ideas that I could have scaffolded more to support my middle learners. I'm already doing better at this now, but the data confirms what I already knew. I wasn't as strategic as I'd like to be in systematically teaching some of the vocabulary words included in Ohio's New Learning Standards. I had some gaps in my instruction. As you know, fitting everything in is challenging. Now, I've got a list of all of the sixth grade vocabulary words compiled collaboratively with some of the other teachers in my district, a new word wall, and a better handle on how to fit a few more thematic units into my instructional year.

I have to say that this value-added information is so much more useful to me as an educator than the achievement report I got over the summer, although that provided some insights as well. I teach in a high-achieving, fairly affluent school; to be honest most of my kids would pass the OAA if I napped all year: they're that talented. Half of them are gifted readers when they walk in my door. But are they all growing? Sadly, no.

So now to the good part: I get to change what I do in my classroom; and it starts now... How cool is that? One of the things I love about where I teach is that I have a lot of professional autonomy. Here is what I'm doing differently this year to make sure all of my kids are growing:

1. Targeted intervention for my lowest readers. I worked with my colleagues to shuffle some schedules and now I can pull my lowest group back for targeted basic skills reading lessons. I didn't do this very well last year, as my data shows. I'm hoping this extra intervention, along with some other new interventions I'm trying, will make sure all of my kids, especially my lowest who need to improve the most, are growing.

2. Higher-level questioning and groupings for my highest kids. I was surprised to find that some of my most advanced readers regressed last year. I found this out when I looked at my student pattern report. I thought I did a pretty good job of differentiating my instruction and assignments to reach my gifted learners, but I can do better.

3. More text-dependent writing. Last year there were eight writing questions on the sixth grade OAA. On-demand writing is essential to helping my kids succeed not only on standardized tests but in college and future careers. I'm asking kids to respond in writing to literature at least once a week, and I've built in a self-assessment component to this so they can be aware of their own work. I've already seen a steep increase in the amount of writing as well as in the maturity of their responses. I'm really proud of them! During read alouds I've also ability-grouped my students to work together to answer student-generated text-dependent questions of varying difficulty. I got this idea from Notice and Note.

No matter my ranking this year or next, I do believe it is my professional obligation and my personal mission to ensure all of my kids are growing in my classroom. Hopefully these additional interventions and ideas will help promote that. If not, the data will show it, and I will try and try again.

How are you using the information found in your value-added data reports?