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Being an educator today and tomorrow: What’s data got to do with it?

In a perfect world, during the first staff meeting of the new school year, the principal would announce that all teachers have been given the freedom to set up unique classrooms with no judgments or interference. Teachers would have full control of curriculum and teaching style, choice of the number of students, and access to technology that provides actionable insights for data-driven instruction. Oh, the possibilities!

In reality, the scenario presented to teachers across the country these days is somewhat different. However, with a supportive administration and an effective professional learning community (PLC), teachers are having positive experiences. Teachers and administrators often have significant time restraints and numerous responsibilities vying for their attention; and to top that off, there are outside pressures, testing expectations, funding problems, and exorbitant amounts of data to manage. As such, education leaders often find themselves longing for a reset button. Despite frustrations, teachers DO want the ability to collaborate and learn new strategies, focusing on doing what they love to do: teach. Given the opportunity for growth, teachers would feel fulfilled and student achievement would soar.

It’s no secret that school administrators are under pressure to show student growth through the use of data, and that pressure is often transferred to teachers. This data comes in many forms, but it is the summative data that is being scrutinized. Imagine if teachers could control the data and show that students are growing throughout the year, while finding a way to shift the mindset away from relying on just one final test at the end of the year! They could then use the collected data to drive lesson planning and meet the needs of more students within the classrooms.

With so many forms of data and limited directional support, teachers are doing their best to determine which assessments and data are most meaningful—a challenging process. But teachers are in fact using data-driven instruction based on existing data to increase student performance. Here are three assessment ideas that can make collecting data a little easier:

  • Incorporate Blended Learning by using interactive programs that track student data and produce real-time reports. The reports from these programs can drive lesson planning and assist teachers in setting up differentiated groups within the classroom.
  • Use a Classroom Response System (such as hand-held “clickers”) to take a formative assessment at the end of each class period. The results are instant and allow the teacher to immediately evaluate the students’ understanding.
  • Use a ticket-in strategy to assess student understanding of homework assignments.

Once you find a tool that is successful, you will begin to see the benefits in your classroom. Being able to meet your students’ needs, catch students before they fall through the cracks, and detect gaps in student learning will result in student growth and success. Independent learning and student persistence are two traits that will set your students above—as they venture out into the real world. As each new school year begins, create a student-centered learning environment in which the teacher is a facilitator and coach.

How do YOU imagine the future of education? Dozens of teachers, educators, and thought leaders joined the conversation last week at ISTE. Check out what had to say about the future of learning!

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