A teacher's perspective on assessment data

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In the report Teacher Data Literacy: It’s About Time, the Data Quality Campaign worked with a series of national and state-level education experts, including NCTQ’s own Sandi Jacobs, to recommend clear pathways states can create for teachers to develop literacy in data. 

We took this publication as an opportunity to reach out to our Teacher Advisory Group to gain some perspectives on data in the classroom. Karen Parrino, a kindergarten teacher in Livingston Parish, Louisiana shared with us a piece she wrote for her state's assessment department on the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS), a reading assessment she uses to inform her work:

DIBELS is used as an early indicator to determine those children at risk for literacy deficits. DIBELS allows [me] to intervene early. By using the data from DIBELS assessments, [I] can determine which students need specific interventions. By providing early interventions students at risk can avoid major reading difficulties.  It is important to use the data from progress monitoring and benchmark assessments to determine the effectiveness of teaching practices and make adjustments, where needed.

Beyond the diagnostic power of the assessment, Karen recognizes the importance of using the data to inform the next phases of instruction.

The DIBELS assessment must be followed by high-quality, corrective instruction designed to target whatever learning errors are identified.  Teachers should use approaches that accommodate individual differences in students. It is important to keep in mind that assessment is the foundation for effective instruction. Educators should evaluate the data and let the data drive instruction.

Educators should let assessment guide them and provide the best instruction possible for every student.  Remember, if you go to your doctor feeling poorly, he/she will run tests before making the diagnosis and prescribing a treatment plan.  This is what our students need.  They need assessment, evaluation of the data and effective instructional strategies.

As an educator, Karen affirms that assessment plays a very important role in teaching but also requires that assessment data must then be used to inform instruction. This quickly became a theme in the discussion held with our Teacher Advisory Group. While we call for better and transparent assessments and data, we must ensure that this information, in turn, has purpose for educators.  To do this, we can follow the recommendations highlighted in the Data Quality Campaign report and keep building the capacity for teachers to use good data to inform instruction.