Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Portable Data Charts for Collaborative Teams

Why the Data Cards?
We are moving to an RtI framework in our district and part of that move requires better data use in our collaborative teams. Our collaborative teams of teachers (PLC's) have really started to use data in their results focused conversations, but often the data is too complicated to access or is housed in too many places. Sometimes, it's just having it on different screens on the computer that makes it difficult to really "see" how students are doing.

In an attempt to make the data more visible, accessible and concrete, the elementary instructional strategist (Janelle Thompson @janellejt) and I have come up with our portable data charts. We've used RtI colors (green, yellow and red) and incorporated them with our formative assessment tool, Skills Iowa, color coding (blue for exceeds standards).

In talking with other districts, there are some great ideas out there about how to make data more visible. We heard about designating a space for a data room, but we don't have space for that. We also heard about sticky notes that were moved across the wall, student pictures put in different categories, and other ideas that we took into account as we created our portable data charts. I'd like to tell you it's super complicated and we went all out cost wise to make the data charts, but alas, they are nothing more than pieces of construction paper laminated into one long chart. We move the student data cards around on the chart based on the instructional supports students need. We adhere them to the chart using "reposition glue" which makes paper into a sticky note. We decided against velcro because it was too expensive and it kept coming off. I'm sure good old masking tape could work too :-).

How to Create the Data Cards
To make the cards, we use an Excel spreadsheet merged into a Word project template. First, you need to get all your data into one place. Set up column headings in Excel that start with the student ID. This is helpful for data look up formulas you'll want to run to get all the data into one sheet (like VLOOKUP).

Once your data is housed on the same spreadsheet, open a Word document project gallery.  We selected labels and printed our data out onto blank business cards. The mail merge feature allowed us to bring our data onto the cards with a click of the button. We print last year's data on the card and teachers will write new scores on the card throughout the year as we complete district-wide assessments.

We used each student's photo from LifeTouch to make each student's data card more personal. For those students who were new to our district, we printed a picture to add to the card. I can't stress enough the importance of the pictures. It makes data mean so much more!

Using the Charts in PLC's
We use these charts in our PLC conversations (collaborative team time focused on student learning). Because we don't have a dedicated meeting space where the data can stay up, we fold up these charts after each meeting and clip them together with binder clips.  It's the binder clips I use on the command hooks in my office to hang the charts while we discuss student progress. The instructional strategists we have in our district are a huge help in using the charts and understanding the data. We are still working on their use consistently across grade levels. If you approach data in a similar way or are just starting to implement RtI like we are, be prepared for some questions like:

  • When do we move kids from one color to the next?
  • Whose job is it to deliver the interventions?
  • What about those kids that are just on the line of being proficient? 
  • How do we address students who may be proficient overall, but are missing a few key standards or skills?

Here's another article on the use of the data charts. More to come as learn more and as the secondary staff start to use them too. See page 5 of the ISFIS newsletter to read another explanation of the data charts.