Data, data, data. To be completely honest, I used to find myself rolling my eyes at the thought of all of the data studied in our PLCs. However, just like any job, we really DO need “research” and concrete data to back up our daily instructional and overall classroom decisions day in and day out. Anecdotal records, informal observations, formative check ins, and summative assessments are all essential ways to gauge and evaluate the level of understand and growth from each individual student.
Exit and entrance slips for any math standard can be used to pre and post assess a student in order to ensure that it has been mastered. If not, that is where intervention strategies and reteaching/relearning happens. This is how our first grade team runs our math instructional model and uses our extension teacher for small group Guided Reading Plus intervention time. We communicate this information to families and parents by entering each standard into our online grading portal and also use progress reports with this information listed as well. Parents then can see whether their child is beginning, developing or secure in that standard or strand. We then reassess these standards to show growth.
In reading, we use a few different assessments that drive our instruction forward. The AIMSWeb words per minute timed reading along with a sight word check in are a few of the common assessments we use across our first grade classrooms. We use the famous “Fountas & Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System” to assess the guided reading levels of our students. This is also how our Tier 2 and Tier 3 groups are decided. We use the exit and entrance criteria to decide which students need another “boost” and which students can exit the extra intervention. We communicate this to parents by sending home letters from the intervention teachers explaining the process and introducing themselves. We also share what reading level their child is currently at when they enter and exit the intervention groups. We also send home quarterly progress reports along with checking in regarding growth and progress during monthly communication nights as well. We also input this data into our online grading system as well along with other language arts standards for parents to view as it us updated.
Assessing students takes A LOT, and I mean A LOT A LOT of time from our instruction time. Therefore, if we are already using up precious learning time to gather this critical student data, we need to actually utilize, analyze and adjust from it. The simple and informal anecdotal and informational observations are all part of formatively assessing growth and progress among all students. These small observations lead to bigger decisions during a lesson. Whether students are grasping the standard or content determines the next step in instruction. It is key to know where your whole or small group is at in order to move on with a lesson. Not all lessons will go as planned and not all groups of kiddos will respond the same as the last year’s did. Teachers need to be quick thinkers, adjustable and flexible with making instruction decisions for students. This is best practice and will ensure growth among all students, no matter their skill level.
Assessments are like dominos and if the small informal observations are used to adjust instruction, then the formative and summative assessments should be straight proof of the growth in the classroom. This data should be shared with parents as often as possible and also with any other adults working with that student in the building so that all communication lines are covered. Involving students in their growth is important as well. Communicating the success and growth throughout the year and having students be involved and make goals for their own learning is a huge motivator and part of allowing students to take ownership of their own education and learning!