When was the last time there were no injustices being done to education or to your students? When was the last time you simply wandered around talking pedagogy? We all had our calling. We all wanted to save the world one child at a time. Maybe it’s time we stop for a moment and look at ways to get back to focusing on our students.
Take a moment to internalize what good data-driven instruction looks like. Give yourself a chance to get back to the most basic part of your calling as a teacher: Helping your kids succeed. We need to stop looking at the data collection process as an afterthought that we are completing to appease the powers that be. Examining data helps us to truly look at our students. It helps us to learn who they are academically and even personally. I’ve made the change in my own classroom. Data-driven instruction is my norm, and it has fostered student success more than anything else.
In looking at scores from one assessment I gave on the works and schools of thought of the Middle Ages, I discovered an inconsistency that bothered me. One of my students had earned a D on the summative after scoring highly on all of the formative assessments. He had prominently participated during class discussions and articulated himself very well in doing so. He had absolutely mastered the material at a much deeper level than most in the class, and yet he had earned a troublingly low score on the summative.
My self-reflective instincts took over: How had I let this happen? How had I failed this student? I reviewed the data and performed an item analysis on the assessment and came up empty. All other data showed validity of the assessment. It dawned on me that his problem was not one I could control… at least not at the time of the assessment. So then what could I do? I went back to my calling: to use my data to save the world, one child at a time.
Our students deal with issues well beyond what they should be dealing with, balancing outside responsibilities with their schooling. I had a well-crafted assessment perfectly aligned to my formatives and instruction; was it possible that this student could simply have had a bad day and performed poorly because of it? Of course it was, and that’s why we are all engaged in the debate surrounding standardized testing. How can we find a balance between these two levels of data?
Remember my calling? I allowed my student to re-test, and, yes, it took me some time to adjust my original assessment, but it was worth it. He knew it was because he had a bad day, and not because I felt sorry for him. It was not about me feeling emotion or him feeling emotion. It was evidence-based. He had demonstrated mastery of the material in a variety of ways, so it seemed completely fair to give him another shot. I had confidence in my assessment because I used data collection and evidence to construct it. I knew where to look. I knew the history and past performance of my student because I had been continually analyzing his data from the beginning. And because of this, I put a student back on track.
Collecting evidence and analyzing data can help us to continue our calling; we CAN save the world one child at a time. Just ask my student.