Data Tells a Story

Strategic and purposeful planning around data collection can lead to powerful results for student growth. If we think of why, what, and how when planning data collection our evidence can be more useful. Why are we collecting data? What information do we hope to learn from our data? How can we use the data to support our students and to build capacity?

When we look at the why of data collection, we consider the purpose of asking teachers to commit to a common assessment. If we want to track the broad effectiveness of current instructional practices or intervention, a benchmark level may be sufficient. If the reason we are collecting data is to improve student outcomes, a benchmark level doesn’t provide us with enough detail to take action. With a limited data set, we sometimes jump into an intervention program that then gives us mixed results. Or we dig into professional development that may not align with what students need. If our purpose is to improve student achievement, we need to ask what we need to know in order to get the information that will support our purpose.

For example, if the end result is to improve student writing, the data collected needs to inform the process we wish to carry out to attain that, whether we want to make an informed choice regarding intervention or to target universal and differentiated instruction. The data should include enough information to show specific areas of need. Seeing patterns in data is key to effective and efficient programming. For this reason, when focusing on writing consider including student goal areas in the data collection process. By including goal areas, trends will become evident and foster effective and efficient classroom instruction.

As teachers mark a writing sample and refer to HLAT scoring, 6 Traits writing rubric, or the PAT scoring guide, they can take the opportunity to consider a goal area or two for each student in addition to a benchmark score. Including goals in writing shows trends that allow educators to strategize on the best practices to impact student achievement. After examining a student's work to assign an overall score, the assessor is very familiar with the piece and choosing goals is not time consuming. They have already closely considered where the work could be placed on a rubric. As educators undertake the marking of a common assessment together, consistent expectations are built and the discussion next leads to how will we use this data to reach our goals. As a grade team meets to discuss the results and collaboratively plan for next steps, the administrator could facilitate the discussion by asking these questions about the data:

  • What strengths do we see in our data?
  • What are we doing that has contributed to those strengths?
  • What gaps do we see?
  • What classroom practices can we use to address this?
  • What support do you need?

(Hewson, 2020)

As trends are identified, teachers can work together to build collective capacity. After identifying areas of need, staff can work with professional books such as The writing strategies book (Serravallo, 2017) or 6 + 1 traits writing (Culham, 2003). After having time, perhaps in a PLT meeting or common planning time, to examine the book more closely, teachers can meet again to choose goal related strategies to try during whole group, small group, or individual instruction in the writing block. After new strategies are practiced by teachers they can return to their next team meeting to debrief, reflect and consider next steps and continue their professional learning. Successful strategies can then be added to the school’s continuum of supports. Leaders can facilitate this process and support teachers by providing time for planning lessons, creating materials such as anchor charts, and collecting mentor texts. Further in the year, another common assessment can be given to confirm the effectiveness of the newly incorporated practices, reflect on new data, and to set further goals. Teacher capacity is grown, and students benefit from purposeful instruction and become more capable readers and writers.

The data sheet I have included below is easily adapted to any writing rubric by editing the suggested goals that are taken directly from the rubric included with the assessment. To see trends at a glance CLICK - column Q - CLICK - data - CLICK - sort column Q A-Z. The data will rearrange according to goal groups. Repeat this with column S.

This data collection sheet can easily be edited to be used for any reading or writing assessment by editing the box on the top left.

Here are some suggested resources for reading and writing strategies:

Culham, R. (2003). 6+ 1 traits of writing: The complete guide grades 3 and up. Scholastic Inc..

Harvey, S., & Goudvis, A. (2017). Strategies that work: teaching comprehension for understanding, engagement, and building knowledge, K-8. Stenhouse publishers.

Miller, D. (2002). Reading with meaning: Teaching comprehension in the primary grades. Stenhouse Publishers.

Rog, L. J. (2018). Marvelous Minilessons for Teaching Intermediate Writing Grades 3–8. Pembroke Publishers Limited.

Rog, L. (2004). The write genre. Pembroke Publishers Limited.

Serravallo, J. (2015). The reading strategies book: Your everything guide to developing skilled readers (p. 400). Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Serravallo, J. (2017). The writing strategies book: Your everything guide to developing skilled writers with 300 strategies. Heinemann.

Author: Kathleen Robertson


Hewson, K. (January 22, 2020) In person.