Craig is the chief academic officer at Scheck Hillel Community School in North Miami Beach.

Improved Data for Individualized Learning

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“What’s happening with my child?”

One recent fall, after sharing student standardized testing data, a parent reached out to 
school administrators and teachers, exasperated:

“Why are his scores declining for the second test in a row? Shouldn’t he be growing?”

The usual answers were hollow: “It’s one standardized test, don’t worry. This kind of performance fluctuation can happen in a high-stakes environment. When anxiety increases, performance decreases. Did your child get a good night’s sleep before the test?”

Unsatisfied, we dug deeper, to see what else we could do in order to answer the parents’ questions about “Alex.”

Individualized Measurements 

In 2013, a group of like-minded administrators at Scheck Hillel dreamed of creating what we brainstormed would be called an ILP. What if each child in our school could have an Individualized Learning Plan or Profile? We know their test scores. We know their classroom grades. What other data would be important to create this kind of plan? What if we knew so much about our students that we could partner with parents to maximize their achievement, supporting them as they explored their passions and fostered their identity?

The Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) by the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) was a starting point. Their reports for teachers, administrators, students, and parents are detailed. Aligned to national core learning standards and grade level skills, MAP reports make grouping accessible by skill level, extending learning, and/or remediating specific skills. Further, MAP’s measurements of achievement and growth allow all stakeholders to measure progress on both individual and comparative levels. As a company, their continual improvements in reporting and data visualization have improved our approach to using data. 

In recent years, adaptive learning practice platforms have evolved, and MAP scores can be linked to tools such as Dreambox Math, Khan Academy, IXL, NewsELA, and more. These are the low-hanging fruit of leveraging the data, and require fewer teacher and administrative touch points, making implementation of data-informed instruction easier. 

However, creating the systems and structures to support data-informed planning and learning activities is daunting. Change management, teacher turnover and other factors slow progress in data usage. Nevertheless, the benefits are definitely worth the efforts. The long-term value lies in student goal-setting and processes that encourage regular practice, “bite-sized” goals, and reflection—of all stakeholders.

Standardized testing is a singular measure of student achievement. It is by far not the best measure of student progress, but it is an indicator. Other data sources help to measure student achievement: class grades, quizzes and tests, and project-based rubric scores. Attendance and tardy data may also indicate where and why a student may or may not be reaching their potential.

Back to our ILP: What other data sources could we use? Classroom grades are easily accessible. Attendance? Yes. Discipline? Yes. What about the so-called “soft skills” or what used to be called soft skills? Social-emotional learning skills?

Measuring SEL

In 2015, we found a new education company that was leveraging stakeholder feedback to improve learning. PanoramaEd uses survey tools for social-emotional learning (SEL) and school culture, among others, to support students in school systems. Our focus then was to learn more about how our students felt about their own social-emotional learning skills and competencies.

It took a few years and pilots to develop the ongoing systems and processes in order to implement these principles, and we’re still working to improve how we use them. We survey our students in Grades 3-12 annually about specific SEL skills. Beginning in Grade 3, students answer questions about growth mindset, self-management, classroom effort, and learning strategies. Students answer these same questions again in grades 5, 7, 9, and 11. 

Beginning in fourth grade, students answer different questions, focusing on grit, self-efficacy, social awareness, and emotion regulation. (These same questions are asked again in grades 6, 8, 10, and 12.) The rationale behind asking questions on alternating years was to avoid survey fatigue and allow two years for growth between measurements. These surveys opened a significant window into the minds and hearts of our students. 

Simultaneously, we started to ask more questions to inform that ILP idea:

  • What if we were able to see all our student data in one place?
  • Could be combine the standardized tests, class grades, attendance, behavior, and student self-perceptions about social-emotional learning competencies? 

Thanks to an incredible database manager and a growth-minded team, we created a student data dashboard that is updated each term. Teachers, administrators, and counselors can access the dashboard to review student information, all in a single place. Leveraging powerful data visualization tools and techniques, we were able to create this tool for grades 2-12. Yes, the indicators are mostly lagging ones, yet combined with anecdotal teacher, counselor, administrator, student and parent input, a clearer picture and profile of the learner can be made. 

Here’s a sample report of the data dashboard for our middle school division. The lower and high school divisions have different layouts that represent their respective programs.

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The Student at the Center 

What is the practical application of something like this? The dashboard enables us to ask better questions, to engage with our stakeholders at the table with a plethora of information available. 

Having all the data in one place enables us to ask new questions. Are the standardized measures of achievement aligned to classroom ones? What does attendance look like, and how does it correlate to achievement? How does the student feel about their own abilities related to intelligence, grit, emotional regulation, among other indicators? How might these factors be influencing achievement?

Most importantly, because we are focused on the student in the center, conversations look very different. We can use the data to draw correlations to home behaviors and attitudes that without the SEL data were previously unseen. 

After digging deeper with Alex’s family, the educational team (administrators, counselors, teachers) found that the child’s self-perceptions were having an impact on classroom performance and standardized test scores. The child believed that it is “not all possible to change how easily he gave up” and felt that “his level of intelligence was only a little possible to change.” The classroom teacher and school counselor noticed that the student required constant reinforcement, and that he rushed through completing assignments without checking them against rubrics or other self-paced guidelines. 

Through further conversation with the parents, the educational team learned that some of the same behaviors were manifesting at home and with extracurricular activities. The team came together and crafted a plan or an ILP for the child, and the school/family partnership was strengthened through specific shared actions, both at home and at school. A summary of the plan appears below.

Alex’s Plan

Summary 

Through MAP data, classroom observations, and collaborative conversations between school and home, we have come together to identify ways to support Alex’s progress. Alex has a fixed mindset about his intelligence and his ability to move past challenges. This has been seen in his academic performance, self-reported surveys about his social-emotional skillset, as well as extracurricular activities. In order to help Alex reach his full potential, we are coming together to support him as he develops a growth mindset.

Goals 

  • To develop a growth mindset in school and at home when presented with challenging situations.
  • To exhibit grit on classroom MAP assessments to persevere as questions become more difficult. 

Next Steps 

In School

1. Bi-weekly meetings with classroom teacher and counselor. These meetings will focus on goal-setting and providing techniques to develop a growth mindset. 

2. When presented with challenges, teachers will use the following phrases to promote a growth mindset 

  • “Build your brain’s muscles by working hard!"
  • “You learn from your mistakes."
  • “Thinking dislike giving your brain a workout."
  • “Everyone makes mistakes."
  • “Failure=learning."
  • “Great effort!"
  • “I can tell you tried your best on this."
  • “When the work gets hard, you start learning."
  • “Wow, that was hard–you stuck with it."
  • “That bag is heavy, and you picked it up anyway.” (Rather than you’re strong). Bi-weekly meetings with classroom teacher and counselor. These meetings will focus on goal-setting and providing techniques to develop a growth mindset. 

3. Duckworth Grit assessment tools 

4. Leading up to the next MAP assessment, we will guide Alex through test prep including what to do when faced with challenging questions.

5. Include Alex in reviewing MAP scores and understanding how the test works.

At Home 
  • Provide opportunities for Alex to practice problem-solving, grit, and pushing himself outside of his comfort zone. This could be building legos, housework responsibilities, playing video games, etc.
  • Parents read Grit: The Power or Passion and Persistence by Angela Duckworth.
  • Parents read Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink.
  • When presented with challenges at home, parents will use the same phrases as school to promote growth mindset 

Parent feedback upon sharing the data has been overwhelmingly positive. Seeing everything in one place provides a clearer picture for them of the school experience. The plan enables them to be more fully engaged in the “home” portion of the school/family partnership. As we continue to refine our process and system, it is our intention to create these for each child.