This last year I was asked by the Center for Strengthening the Teaching Profession to write a “data story”. I wasn’t really sure what they wanted but a woman I really look up to at CSTP asked me to do it. She asked if I had gone through the process of the new Teacher/Principal Evaluation Project (TPEP) and I said I had participated in the comprehensive process as a pilot the year before. She asked me if I had any sort of story about data I could share. A story that might help people sort out what the student growth data portion of the evaluation system was really about. Maybe I could help to demystify this ominous part of the process.
For these reasons I quickly agreed and I knew right away what I wanted to write about. The story of my struggle with collecting data that matched my student growth goal was being told as a great case study of how sometimes the best laid plans don’t work out as expected. Although it was a bit embarrassing to be a cautionary tale, I felt compelled to share the story of how I learned one of the most important lessons of my teaching career so far. I felt that sharing this story with a wider audience might really help.
My data was all based on six Literacy Design Collaborative tasks that I used as assessments in my Contemporary World Studies class that year. The Literacy Design Collaborative is a planning framework that guides teachers to ask rigorous Common Core based questions to drive reading and research performance task assessments. This meant the data was very much tied to the Common Core State Standards.
My story is really about what my data told me about not being perfect and about how collecting data just for the sake of proving that my students made growth to an administrator (or anyone else!) is statistical nonsense. My data really made me uncomfortable and I had to admit to a handful of people I look up to that I had made a mistake in my lesson and unit design that had lead to my students struggling. However, it also told me what I needed to do to improve the skills of my students before the year’s end. Most importantly, my data story showed me that data is still just data unless I use it to get better.
You might also recognize fellow blogger Tom who also shared his student growth story!