Positive Slope

Last week, Dr. Nathan Anderson and I presented at the ND AdvancED/Learning Forward conference.  Our main focus was to give districts hands-on, practical strategies for tackling the Student Performance Diagnostic.  We kept our focus to the Top 3 Things to Consider:

  • Data Document
  • Evaluative Criteria
  • Diagnostic Questions

Districts are required to complete all three pieces; the diagnostic questions address areas of notable achievement and areas in need of improvement.  Prior to last spring, the data was available in the SLDS but required much external analyzing.  Because of this, Dr. Anderson created a spreadsheet method of accessing and analyzing the needed data from the SLDS.  It provides customization and is a testament to Nathan’s desire to help schools.  After the SLDS team reviewed the spreadsheet method and many discussions were had, new reports were made available directly on the SLDS titled District AdvancED and School AdvancED.  They tackle the twelve questions directly.

During our presentation, Nathan and I stressed the advantages and disadvantages to each method as nothing is an all inclusive fitting glove.  Each district needs to look at their reality and decide which route makes the most sense for them, whether that is the spreadsheet method created by Nathan, the reports available on the SLDS, or some other method created by an in-house person.  AdvancED exists to improve schools and the only thing that will truly make the improvement occur are the conversations that lead to decisions, not simply the entering the numbers and/or printing of reports.

With that, Nathan and I both feel passionate about data utilization and often joke we are very opposite minded people with the same vision.  In our presentation, I made reference to the spreadsheet being Nathan’s brain and the Data Utopia slide being mine.  We both have a positive slope and we both want what is best for North Dakota students, teachers, and districts.


AdvancED Connection

There are two new reports available to district and school admin. authenticated users of the ND SLDS.  One can be found under the blue “district” bar in the list of PK-12 reports and it’s titled DISTRICT ADVANCED.  The other can be found under the blue “school” bar in the list of PK-12 reports and its titled SCHOOL ADVANCED.

The SLDS team has been diligently working to update its current reports to align with the needs of educational data in the state.  One of the key areas emphasized this year has been the data required for AdvancED.  Last fall, it became apparent the data was available in the SLDS, but it was not analyzable directly from the reports – an external spreadsheet had to be utilized for school districts to answer the questions from AdvancED’s Student Performance Data Document.  Because of this need, updates were made throughout the year to the District Proficiency Trend report and in the spring, entirely new reports were created titled District AdvancED and School AdvancED.

These new reports provide districts the option to use the data available directly from the SLDS, without needing to do any external analyzing.  This advancement in the SLDS has been the combined effort of ITD staff, the Data Steward, REA Data Specialists, and the ND AdvancED Director.  Please note if you export this report, it must be to a PDF.

From the SLDS training completed by the Data Steward this fall, it has become evident districts are finding this report valuable for other data conversations as well such as curriculum/program improvement needs and grant writing.


American Evaluation Association Connection

I recently had the pleasure of collaborating with a colleague, Nathan Anderson – Data Management Specialist for Mid-Dakota Education Cooperative, to write a submission for the American Evaluation Association’s 365 blog feature.

Our post is centered around developing your data mindset, particularly on transforming data frustration to data utopia.

Please check it out here; it’s exciting to have our work be showcased on a national level.


Elementary Early Warning Indicators

The Early Warning Indicators research document from the ND State Longitudinal Data System’s team of researchers has been released for your information; it can be found for authenticated users via the blue question mark on the Student Snapshot report (this is the report sometimes referred to as the individual student view – it’s accessible by clicking on a student’s name once logged into the SLDS PK-12 reports).  For quick reference, I have also put the document as a link on the right side of this blog.  The research explains the Early Warning tab that has been added to the Student Snapshot report for grades 3-7.   A high school readiness probability of success score is available if the student has NDSA results in grades 3-8.


Differentiation Does, In Fact, Work

If you read nothing else today, please read the response written by Carol Ann Tomlinson for Education Weekly around the topic of differentiation in the classroom.

It is an absolute must read by all in this great profession.


Why do we always want to go straight to the end?

The other day, I heard a meaningful analogy from a wise and respected educator in this state.

“It’s like giving a fourth grader a calculator before they understand the process of long division.  Once they have done the work behind the scenes in their brain and know the what and why of the process, then a calculator becomes a valuable tool.  Before then, it actually is a hindrance.”

This was in reference to a discussion we were having at a SLDS workshop about how it’s necessary for each school to make their own plan for using data instead of looking to take someone else’s lead or looking to have it done for them.

So many times in education, I believe we look for the end – the tool – the quick fix – the magic pill – the what can be taken from someone else and used as our own – the end.  It’s common.  I understand why it happens; the atmosphere around education is fast, busy, and always changing.  It lends itself well to the mentality of simply “cross these items off the list.”  Our entire educational system is set up in a way that fosters the notion and belief in the end.  The end of the nine weeks, the end of the semester, the end of the school year – all of these train our brains to think in the manner of this too shall pass and be over so let’s just get it “done” for now.

When in reality, that kind of thinking is damaging to the very work that needs to be done.

The calculator will not teach a fourth grade student how to understand long division.

A data matrix made by me and handed to you will not teach you how to use data to impact instruction in your classroom.

A report ran by the SLDS will not teach your leadership team how to find trends and then analyze their meaning.

The process of getting to the end is where the learning and real magic happen.  It’s in the sitting down and hammering out exactly what makes sense for your district,  your school, your classroom, and your students because every single one of those subsets holds a unique set of answers – ones that can not be answered by outside sources.

I know that when I was a fourth grade classroom teacher, my most successful teaching moments came not from lessons I found somewhere and printed off, but rather came from me sitting down with my goals and knowledge of my own students to plan learning experiences that aligned with both.  My high-five worthy teaching experiences came when I went through the entire process of planning quality instruction myself.

Do the process and in turn, you will understand the process because you will have had to wrestle with the ins and outs to make the tool yourself.

Imagine if the students had the same mentality we tend to have when something new is thrown at us.  Imagine if they always wanted someone else to do the work for them so they could quickly get to the end.  Imagine if they wanted a ready made tool handed to them to put their name on and turn in to check off their list.  We wouldn’t go for that with our students; we shouldn’t go for that for ourselves either.

Five Steps for Structuring Data-Informed Conversations and Action in Education by the U.S. Department of Education (2013) is a useful and powerful resource to start the process of using data to impact instruction and make informed decisions.  It is not a quick fix, nor a magic pill; it’s definitely not the end.  It is, however, a framework to begin the discussions which need to happen to begin the process of truly understanding.